How Flowers Tell LGBTQ+ Stories: The History Behind our Naturally Queer Design

As an eco-friendly brand, our founder, Kalyn Hardman (she/her) is quite close to nature. In dreaming up this design she says:

I wanted this design to embody the fact that queer love is natural love. It seemed only right to do so with flowers, some of the most beautiful things in the natural world. Once I started researching queer symbols, the pieces just seemed to fall into place. The design became not only about having pride in one’s own queerness but also pride in our history and how far we have come.”

Flowers always hold meaning. Humans use natural motifs to express and relate to one another everyday. In the nineteenth century, Victorians put so much cultural focus on flowers that the language of flowers and bouquets had its own textbooks.

In order to safely express queer love, the community subverted floriography (the language of flowers) for our own purposes. And now, So Queer No Fear has interwoven these meanings into a beautiful design that you can wear everyday.

One of, arguably, the oldest queer symbols is the Violet. Sappho, in the 600s BCE, wrote poetry that described her and her lover wearing garlands of florals and tiaras of violets. The symbol of violets resurfaced in the twentieth century, especially in films as one of the subtle symbols of lesbians on screen. In Suddenly Last Summer, Katharine Hepburn’s character, Violet, is often analyzed, along with Sebastian, as symbols of gaydom in a closeted Hollywood.

Pansies are related to violets in the Viola taxanomic family and became a symbol specific to gay men as violets became specific to lesbianism. In the Bohemian 1930’s, the “Pansy Craze” began in New York’s Harlem neighborhood and lasted over half a century until socio-political movements like Nazism sent the craze underground. It is unknown whether the eventually derogatory term “pansy” was generated by the community as an identifying term or outside of it. The flower is now used in queer floral arrangements for many queer romantic occassions.

Another popular queer wedding flower is lavender. It’s original use mirrored Violets, being exchanged by lesbian couples in the 1920’s, but as a popular derogatory term around the same time it identified femme men in public. Cole Porter used the “dash of lavender” phrase to describe himself in his song “I’m a Gigolo.” In the 1970’s, the term “lavender marriage” refers to marriages arranged for convenience or to keep up public appearances of heterosexuality.

Just as lavender and violets could easily be worn on the lapel, Oscar Wilde popularized wearing a green carnation. Scholars enjoy the idea that Wilde coyly desired to connect the flower’s unnatural green hue to the “unnatural relations” that Wilde shared with his lovers. It is thought that Wilde merely imported the fashion of gay men sharing or wearing green carna

tions from Bohemian Paris, but nonetheless, the history of the green carnation is a sardonic smirk at those that would peer curiously at queer love or culture.

As xenophobic movements of the 1930’s drove bold expressions of homoeroticism underground, history saw florals become the primary messengers of secret love once again. Just like with violets on film, calla lilies implied female sexuality in art. Georgia O’Keeffe denied any hidden sexual overtones in her calla lilies paintings; six of which sold for $25,000 in 1928. No one can overlook that Frida Kahlo also painted the motif of calla lilies in many of her works and she openly had relationships with women. However, with Freudian popular psychology at the forefront of non-Victorian culture, these pieces can elicit a strong response.

Most of us have a flower or plant that means a lot to us. Whether it be their physical forms, their strong scents, or the memories they elicit, our natural world encapsulates a depth of meaning that we draw on time and again.

As you peruse the So Queer No Fear shop, you can see these flower meanings in the product descriptions of both the “Naturally Queer — Flowy Crop Tee” and the “Naturally Queer — Fitted Ringer Tee”. For us, it is paramount to understand the history and culture that predates us. We never want to stop learning.

If you have links to share or comments to express, drop them below! Also, if you could give or receive any flower or plant to a loved one, what is your go-to?

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