Queer Symbolism; Interactions Therein

That title sucks, and really makes this seem like this is going to be a more serious post than it is in reality. You’ve been warned: This is mostly word vomit. There is very little “seriousness” past the title.

In equal parts due to the fact that I constantly lose my keys and that I’m so incredibly lazy that I don’t want to fuss with wallets: I wear my keys and plethora of work/school access cards on a black Halo 3 lanyard in my right back pocket. ButtI mean, it works really well. I’m right-dominant so it definitely keeps all of my essentials in a convenient space. I haven’t lost my keys since I started keeping my stuff together this way.

I’m also very aware of the fact that prior to “my time” (as a queer born in the early-90’s) flagging/”The Hanky Code” was a kind of popular method by which queers could quickly and easily show other queers their socio/sexual [1] interests.

A really good description of the Hanky Code comes from The Closet Professor:

Gay men used this code to communicate with each other in the noisy and distracting environment of gay bars. Although not as widely used these days, it is still a worthwhile resource and is, among those who know, a great conversation starter. Hankies can also be worn around the wrist, ankle, or leg (at the thigh, above the knee), or around the neck with the tie going either right or left. Other objects such as keys, key chains, watch fobs, or even handcuffs can also be used to let people know if you’re a “top” or “bottom.”

Femme flagging via manicuring is also (kind of? online?) a thing. xoJane [2] has previously described femme flagging as:

[…] similar to the gay men’s hanky code of the 1970s. […] The idea behind femme-flagging manicures (or “finger-flagging,” which, let’s face it, is fun to say) is that they’ll signal to nearby in-the-know ladies that you’re into ladies.

Regardless of the method: literally no one has ever publicly commented to me regarding either my key placement or my manicure colours.

So with all that context: it’s Pride again.

I haven’t been to any kind of Pride celebration in a couple of years. Not because I don’t like the idea of celebrating my queerness (queerosity?) as loudly as possible, but because my local Pride event passes out rainbow flags with corporate logos on them to parade-goers. This might seem like a little thing to a lot of people, but I honestly just find it so uncomfortable. The use of flags as nationalist symbols aside, it seems really strange to associate my own queer identity with corporate consumerism.


I met up with a friend today to check out the Pride festival grounds, visit our favourite book shop, and grab lunch.

Overheard while walking to the festival grounds: “Oh yeah flagging is like when you tell people all your weird kinks. Black in your right pocket probably means you’re into getting tied up and stuff.”


So that really set the tone for the afternoon.


My friend really wanted to get henna tattoos together, but I’ve historically been a bit wary of henna. Regardless, I told her I was down as long as I could get something to do with puppies (because puppies are cute, or something). I decided to just give free reign to my henna artist, and I’m pretty please with the results all things considered.

Yet despite everything I know about Owner/pet dynamics, I was still a bit (or a lot) surprised when someone asked, “Pup’s into roleplay?” while I was checking out DnD manuals.

Yes? No? What?

And it wasn’t even the question itself which put me off-kilter [3].

What really got me is the fact that despite my (to me) pretty overt everyday flagging I’ve—as previously stated—never had anyone make a comment to me about it before, let alone call me “Pup” in public.

I kind of passed roleplay guy off, but the fact that someone was willing to talk to be about the embodiment of my interests [4] within the Pride Space was really… neat, honestly.

In the article Being-in-the-Market versus Being-in-the-Plaza Miles Richardson talks of considering artifacts/material culture within a situational context:

[…] although probably not a strictly linear progression [this process] can best be presented as three analytically distinct steps or components: the preliminary definition supplied by the material culture of a setting; the interaction occurring within that setting; and the image emerging out of the interaction and completing the definition by restating that situation’s sense of place.

While outside of a queer space my lanyard may simply be something I hold on to my keys with or my puppy paws may be something I just thought was cute, the “preliminary definition” supplied by the Pride Space shifts not only the symbolism of aforementioned objects, but also shifts what may be considered appropriate interaction and outcome from said interaction.

tl;dr that long-ass sentence: Context Matters. A Lot.

The idea that social and spacial contexts shifts the way/s in which symbols are interpreted seems pretty obvious, it honestly never even occurred to me that symbols which I Know are Gay As Hell could cause public commentary simply because they never have in the past.

tl;dr this entire post: Today kind of reminded me not only of how important it is to consider that not all schema are obvious at first blush, but also that I should probably put more (less?) care into what I wear and how I wear it into queer spaces.

… Or something like that.

[1] I say “socio/sexual” here not only because of my own asexuality, but also the assumed historical presence of asexual people in kink and leather communities. In my opinion it would be neat to see some research into the history of aces in said communities, though I personally haven’t seen anything of the sort in my own (albeit brief) gander into the subject.

[2] This article is literally the only mention of femme flagging I’ve seen outside of Tumblr, hence my dubiousness as to its practice outside of web spaces.

[3] Though, let’s be real, the question helped.

[4] “”””””interests””””””



Author: B

I'm a 20-something university student with a blog.

2 thoughts on “Queer Symbolism; Interactions Therein”

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