Making Shirts to Support the LGBTQ Community

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Lgbtq MerchandiseSales of pride merchandise are at an all-time high thanks to huge public support for the LGBTQ community. Because of that, many merchants, specifically t-shirt sellers, have been created in order to sell LGBTQ merchandise to supporters. Did you know that the majority of these companies don’t give anything back to the LGBTQ community?

It’s really a shame.

However, there is a morally intrinsic value to be placed upon any company that chooses to devote their time and resources to creating merchandise for the LGBTQ community. We wanted to spread this message, so we bought (which is probably how you got here).

T-shirts were used as an early vehicle of social messages for LGBTQ communities. Whether to protest, criticize, or show pride, the LGBTQ community’s often ignored history can be powerfully seen in the clothing they produce and wear, especially graphic tees. To be honest, we could live in graphic tees. They’re witty, fun, and depending on your mood, can do all the talking for you. Plus they never go out of style. Wearing LGBTQ t-shirts is a great way to show support for the community and to encourage other people to get involved in supporting equality.


T-shirts have been used as a canvas to promote LGBTQ equality, pride, visibility, and justice for many decades. Due to the conversations that happen when people wear graphic tees, they are an effective medium. The t-shirt is accessible, personal, and most importantly, it’s interpreted differently than other means of communication because there is a real person inside of it. In a culture where fashion can be heavily criticized, it’s incredible that the common, inexpensive t-shirt remains in style as an instrument of protest and visibility. In the past half-century, LGBTQ communities have used these simple lifeless fabrics as self-expressive promotions of their identities.

Arguably the oldest symbol, identifying gays and adapted by the LGBTQ community to show pride and increase understanding, is the pink triangle. Gay prisoners in Nazi concentration camps were forced to wear the pink triangle as a badge of shame on their uniform; this meant that they often received worse treatment and as a result were less likely to survive the camps. Although not everyone accepts the pink triangle as a positive symbol of gay pride, the triangle has gone through many changes since being repurposed in the early 1970s and continues to be used as an empowering symbol and reminder of the persecution LGBTQ people still face.

The most common symbol found on LGBTQ t-shirts is the infamous rainbow. Designed in the late 1970s, when Gilbert Baker, a Vietnam War veteran and drag performer, identified the need for a universal symbol to rally the gay community. He wanted something less dark and painful than what the pink triangle represents. The original rainbow flag featured eight colors, each having a different meaning. Hot pink was at the top, which represented sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow signifying sunlight, green for nature, turquoise to represent art, indigo for harmony, and finally violet for spirit. The flag’s colors and meanings changed in 1978 (after rising activist Harvey Milk was assassinated in 1978 after winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977) and in 1979 (when Baker’s estate noticed that the turquoise color was obscured by the lamp post it hung near). Today the flag’s stripes are red standing for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for harmony, and violet for spirit.

Why It’s Important To Wear LGBTQ Shirts

It’s important to support our fellow humans. Everyone deserves to live a happy and prosperous life with the same respect as the next person. Unfortunately, there are some people with outdated world views that discriminate against LGBTQ members and want to ostracize them. One of the proven ways of combating these archaic views is through exposure to the LBGTQ message. Exposure therapy has long been seen as one of the more effective ways of helping someone overcome their fears. That’s where the hate comes from – a place of fear. People fear the unknown, and as a result, lash out against it.

By wearing LGBTQ shirts, we’re exposing others in our sphere of influence to someone who supports the LGBTQ community. It may not seem like it, but the more outward support a cause has, the more impactful it is. Wearing an LGBTQ shirt is not going to change someone’s views. But it will be one more piece of exposure for them. It can normalize their response to LGBTQ to encourage change and reject the fearful hate prominent in many societies.

June is Pride month, but supporting LGBTQ rights isn’t limited to the month of June. It’s very important that we celebrate and protect those members of the LGBTQ community, year-round. Including the wearing LGBTQ supporting t-shirts year-round as a non-threatening channel for potential discussions. So after Pride month ends, keep representing and wearing those tees.


Many brands and designers are providing entire collections of clothes to support the LGBTQ community, including Target, American Eagle, Under Armour, and Disney. Even straight people show their support of their gay friends and family by wearing gay pride t-shirts. Over the years, it seems that the trends have moved from the more subtle to outright bold. Everything goes in the world of tees to support the gay community and help break stereotypes.

Designs include just about everything from pink triangles and rainbows to sayings that call out the inequality and injustice the community battles. Hashtag sayings like #lovewins and #loveislove are popular now, as well as supportive sayings like “Free Mom Hugs” or “I love my gay (family member)”. Especially popular this year was the “do something!” t-shirt to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising; the event that launched the modern LGBTQ rights movement in the United States after Stormé DeLarverie shouted “do something!” as she was being beaten by police officers outside of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village.

Visual examples of LGBTQ t-shirts throughout history

Wearing Gay History has a digital collection of LGBTQ t-shirts that were worn over the past several decades and all over the world. Wearing Gay History’s goals are to:

  • To combat the “bicoastal bias” of queer history
  • To show both the distinctness and interconnectedness of queer identities across geographic lines
  • To bring visibility to smaller queer archives across the country
  • To uncover the often ignored history of diverse LGBT cultures
  • Use a digital platform to ensure widespread accessibility and relatability

They have 12 digitized t-shirt collections of numerous lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people totaling 4487 t-shirts. The t-shirts date from 1968 to 2019; over 50 years of history.

The categories of shirts include: African American, Asian, Bag Ladies, Bandanas, Bars and Nightclubs, Bear and Leather Culture, Bisexual, Body Positivity, Bullying and Violence, Caps and Headwear, Catholic, Charity Walks and Rides, Choir/Chorus, Drag, Gay Games, HIV/AIDS, Islam/Muslim, Jewish, Keith Haring, Latina/Latino/Hispanic, Lesbian/Feminist, March on Washington, Marriage Equality, Movies and Film Festivals, Music, Native American, New York, Pink Triangle, Police/Law Enforcement, Politics & Elections, Popular Culture, Press & Periodicals, Pride, Rainbow, Religion & Faith, Rodeo, San Francisco, Senior Citizens, Sign Language, Sports & Athletics, Students, Transgender

The t-shirts that Wearing Gay History has digitized are physically located at various universities and museums around the world. The locations include New York City; Amsterdam; Murfreesboro, TN; Buffalo, NY; Las Vegas, NV; Toronto; Johannesburg, South Africa; Portland, MA; San Francisco; San Antonio, TX; Houston, TX; Harlem, NY; Minneapolis, MN; Washington, DC; Indianapolis; and Chicago.

How to Get LGBTQ Shirts for Cheap

Did you know that you’re able to make your own LGBTQ clothing at home, for probably a fraction of the cost that you’d pay at a merchant? Not only is it cheaper, but it’s fun and easy too!

You’ll need three items to achieve the best results:

  1. Heat Press Machine
  2. Screen Printing Machine
  3. Vinyl Cutter

Click on any of the above links to find out more about each of the products and how you can use them for LGBTQ merchandise.

Making your own LGBTQ merchandise at home is a great way to spread the message to your friends and family. You’ll be able to make each piece of clothing for about $3-4, depending on the fabric that you use. The more that you make, the cheaper the cost per unit gets. Additionally, if you’re looking to start a home heat press business, you’ll be able to use your heat press machine or screen printing machine for the business. You’d be able to make LGBTQ specifically for your community. It’s been shown that making merchandise with your community’s branding increases sales by a significant margin. This is doubly true if you live in a more progressive area.

Also, you can open up your own Etsy store and sell localized LGBTQ shirts on there. Create a listing for a unique LGBTQ shirt, with the additional option to customize it. You can usually charge a big more to customize it. However, if you want to do something good for the community, you can donate the proceeds to an LGBTQ friendly organization. There’s big money in using a sewing machine to make your own shirts!


LGBTQ t-shirts have a rich history of helping the community promote LGBTQ equality, pride, visibility, and justice for many decades. Wearing promotional tees assists in exposing those who don’t support the LGBTQ community to their messages. The process of normalization can begin which encourages change and helps eliminate the hate gays experience. To be effective the shirts need to be visible meaning that they need to continue to be worn, even after Pride month.

Wearing Gay History

Revel and Riot

Mermaid Freak

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