The Pink Triangle was a publication focused on strengthening the gay liberation movement. It provided a platform for radical issues in New Zealand such as queer rights, Māori land rights, abortion, feminism and much more.
The Pink Triangle was a lesbian and gay newspaper published in New Zealand by the National Gay Rights Coalition of New Zealand (NGRC). Beginning officially in May 1979, original editors Hugh Gaw and Jan Gee chose the name to identify with the persecution of gays and lesbians during the Holocaust by the Nazis. The symbol had moved “from a symbol of degradation to a symbol, it has been adopted by the international gay community as a symbol of pride.” Having chosen their name, they sought to spread their message throughout the gay community in New Zealand and raise political awareness for liberated gays and lesbians.
Pink Triangle’s pages were littered with advertisements and notices for other lesbian and gay groups throughout New Zealand and the world. The National Gay Rights Coalition advertised the names and locations of their constituent groups throughout New Zealand and how often they met, in an effort to build their network and membership. Pink Triangle also attempted to build more global coalitions and look beyond lesbian and gay activism in New Zealand. Their subscription notices list prices for both the United Kingdom and the United States, aiming to grow and support gay movements abroad. They also published news about homosexuality in different countries, spanning from warrants for the arrest of Ayatollah Khomeini to news about homosexuality in China and London.
Because Pink Triangle drew its ideas and theory from US gay liberation, feminism formed an important part of its ethos in the earliest issues. Attempts to give equal weight to lesbian and gay issues are clear, as well as the institutional setting of having two editors, one gay man and one lesbian woman. The editors noted “we now have two editors… this is an encouraging move in the co-operation of all gay people against the fight against the oppression of sexism.” This coalition did not always produce a fruitful or cordial alliance. Reflecting earlier patterns of lesbian-feminist separatism in the United States, lesbian feminists who read Pink Triangle challenged gay men on their sexism, and at one point issued a stark warning to gay men “unless male homosexuals seriously consider the questions lesbian-feminists are posing, there can be no united homosexual movement.”
Commitment to a wide range of radical causes at the time permeated the pages of Pink Triangle, including radical and lesbian feminism but also environmental conservation, Māori land rights, and international student rights. In a tirade against the government’s ignorance of a Human Rights Commission report, the editors railed against the “anti-woman laws on abortion, the government’s vicious activities on Māori land rights, and racist policies on fees for international students.” They also published contact details for groups like Greenpeace, making clear their commitment to a broad range of issues that intersected but were not explicitly linked to their own cause.
Pink Triangle also published material in support of trans rights groups, promoting separate trans groups seeking to achieve their own goals, rather than direct coalition-building with them. They reproduced materials from Hedesthia, a trans rights groups in New Zealand, and provided clear information for their readers who might not have understood trans issues as well as they did homosexuality. Hedesthia’s messaging focused on the constructed nature of gender and its separateness from sex, helping to break down male-female dichotomies within the gay community. Over the years the style and print variety of Pink Triangle changed significantly as editors and priorities changed. Throughout the mid-1980s, Pink Triangle published a large amount of coverage of the homosexual law reform bill, to shore up support for the bill and encourage people to come out in support.
In other periods it focused more on society and culture, rather than explicit political engagement, with issues on the cover not advertising political activity but rather “an erotic guide to gay men” and “Italianissimo! Food and Fashion”. Over time, Pink Triangle shifted to produce a much more holistic guide to gay and lesbian life in New Zealand, a sharp change from their radical political origins. Feminism became less prominent in Pink Triangle as time went on. The emphasis on gay male lifestyle after 1986 meant that little of the content was concerned with lesbian life, as some pointed out in letters to the editor. But in its beginnings Pink Triangle blazed a radical gay liberationist trail, linking homosexual oppression to patriarchal oppression and attempting to build radical coalitions with like-minded people to achieve positive outcomes. Though it followed the commercial trends of the later 1980s and liberalization of gay politics generally, it made a significant contribution to promoting a litany of radical gay and lesbian voices in the early 1980s.
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Recommended Further Reading:
Else, Anne (ed.) Women Together: a History of Women’s Organisations in New Zealand. Ngā Rōpū Wāhine o te Motu, Daphne Brasell Associates Press and Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, 1993, p 98-99
Rowland, Robyn (ed) Women Who Do and Women Who Don’t Join the Women’s Movement: London: Routledge Kegan Paul: 1984
‘Connie Purdue’ New Zealand History https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/connie-purdue Ministry for Culture and Heritage, updated 4 Nov 2020 (retrieved 5 July 2021)
- Atmore, Chris, ‘Lesbians and PT.” Pink Triangle, October 1988.
- Bebbington, Laurie, Lyons, Margaret, ‘Homosexuality and Feminism.’ Pink Triangle, 6 August 1979.
- Gautlett, Sandy, ‘Greenpeace and Project Jonah.’ Pink Triangle, May 1980.
- Gaw, Hugh, Gee, Jan, ‘Editorial.’ Pink Triangle, 14 May 1979.
- Hedesthia. Pink Triangle, August 1979.
- Pink Triangle, 25 May 1979.
- Pink Triangle, 29 October 1979.
- Pink Triangle, August 1987.
- NA, ‘Gays, Dykes Hit Back.’ Pink Triangle, June 1985.
- Waghorne, Mike, ‘“Human Rights” Commission.’ Pink Triangle, March 1980.
 Hugh Gaw, Jan Gee, ‘Editorial.’ Pink Triangle, 14 May 1979. p. 2.
 Pink Triangle, 25 May 1979. p. 1.
 Pink Triangle, 25 May 1979. p. 8.
 Pink Triangle, 29 October 1979. p. 6.
 Hugh Gaw, Jan Gee, ‘Editorial.’ Pink Triangle, 14 May 1979. p. 2.
 Laurie Bebbington, Margaret Lyons, ‘Homosexuality and Feminism.’ Pink Triangle, 6 August 1979. p. 2.
 Mike Waghorne, ‘“Human Rights” Commission.’ Pink Triangle, March 1980. p. 3.
 Sandy Gautlett, ‘Greenpeace and Project Jonah.’ Pink Triangle, May 1980. p. 3.
 Hedesthia. Pink Triangle, August 1979. p. 7.
 NA, ‘Gays, Dykes Hit Back.’ Pink Triangle, June 1985. p. 2.
 Pink Triangle, August 1987. p. 1.
 Chris Atmore, ‘Lesbians and PT.” Pink Triangle, October 1988. p. 47.
- Pink Triangle’s First Logo. (Credit for image goes to Pink Triangle.)
- An image calling on lesbians to unite appearing alongside a lesbian-separatist piece in PT. (Credit for image goes to Pink Triangle.)
- A cover of Pink Triangle from 1985 featuring Labour MP Fran Wilde, sponsor of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill. (Credit for image goes to Pink Triangle.)
- A Glossy Front Cover of Pink Triangle from the early 1990s, clearly marketed towards gay men. (Credit for image goes to Pink Triangle.)
Published: September 16, 2021
Last modified: January 5th, 2022
Cite as: Liam Perkins, The Pink Triangle, Womens History of New Zealand, Last modified January 2022, https://atomic-temporary-193744190.wpcomstaging.com/the-pink-triangle/