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Unicorn as Queer Symbol
 

"Well, now that we have seen each other, said the unicorn, if you will believe in me, I will believe in you."

-Lewis Carroll / Through the Looking Glass

 

How did unicorns find their way into the symbols and language of the LGBTQ community? Even though unicorns have been referred to in a wide variety of literary, historical, and philosophical ways for centuries, they have somehow wound up having a connection in the queer iconography. By understanding some of the attributes associated with unicorns, one can begin to see why unicorns resonate with LGBTQ culture.

 

 

The mythical unicorn is a legendary creature that has been described since antiquity as a beast with a single large, pointed, spiraling horn projecting from its forehead. It was a beautiful, magical creature that could only be lured and captured by a pure maiden.  It is reputed to live for a thousand years and to be the noblest of animals.

 

The unicorn is a complicated and awe-inspiring beast. It can represent sacred and romantic love. It looks gentle but is also fierce. And, according to legend, its horn heals ailments and diseases, protects against poison, purifies water, and cures impotency.

 

The unicorn represents chastity, virtue, and purity of heart. It has been more broadly embraced as a symbol of hope and grace. Nowadays, the unicorn is strongly associated with vibrant imagination and a sense of wonder.

 

The unicorn symbol has been used when someone is trying desperately to convince you that something that you think is fake is actually real. Some teens use it to show how something that is unbelievable or inconceivable or unfathomable can be factual and true. Among young people, the unicorn is a symbol of uniqueness. They are trying to convey the idea that something is rare or different or weird or odd, but exists none the less. It might be one-of-a-kind. It might be something unexpected or out-of-the-ordinary. By referring to themselves as unicorns they are expressing pride in their own uniqueness and declaring their authenticity.

 

 

It is not unusual to see queer kids embrace the unicorn symbol. Young people who feel different (or ostracized or marginalized or left out) might find some comfort in referring to themselves as unicorns. It can be about expressing pride in one's oddness. Perhaps a young person is still searching or exploring to find his/her identity. Being a unicorn gives him/her some kind of a handle or point of reference. Young people who are curious (or even confused) about their own feelings, might enjoy using the unicorn label. Kids who are experimenting with their gender expression (clothing, hair, make-up) might easily identify as a unicorn.


A unicorn can be further defined as that girl (or guy) that is unattainable and perfect. Everything about her is so flawless and divine, that capturing her is unfathomable. Being someone's unicorn means you are someone's fantasy. She is truly a blessing. Bumping into her on the sidewalk is a good day. Having a conversation with her is a dream come true. Good luck finding her. It takes time, effort, and a whole lot of persistence. Even though unicorns are said to be uncatchable, never give up your pursuit. Unicorns are worth the hunt.

 

 

If somebody calls you a unicorn, it means that you are the most adorable and unique of all creatures. You are the stuff of myths and dreams and there is no way you could ever be real. You are someone's four-leaf clover and they can’t believe their luck. You are the perfect catch or the perfect partner. If they capture you, they’ll probably ride you for life.

"She is my dream come true. I am so lucky. She's my unicorn for sure."

"Did you see that guy? I think I just found my unicorn. Now how do I go about talking to him?"

"That girl is a ten for sure. She’s beyond a ten. She’s my unicorn."

 

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The unicorn started as a fierce creature found in the farthest corners of the known world. Originally, it was envisioned to have the head of a stag, the feet of an elephant and the tail of boar. So how did unicorns end up on little girls' birthday cakes all cute and pink and covered in glitter? How did it become a popular motif for children's toys, books, and clothing?

 

 

Unicorns gained a reputation for being elusive, a reference to things you could never quite see or catch. Wild animals at heart, unicorns are highly independent and they can easily elude the grasp of humans. When they are spotted, they run away. In the rare case that a unicorn is cornered, it will fight, and fight hard, for its freedom.

 

Legend has it that the creature is tireless when pursued, yet falls meekly to the ground when approached by someone with a pure heart. Unicorns, then, reveal themselves only to those they trust. While guarded and suspicious of the intentions of others, unicorns will bare themselves to those who are virtuous and benevolent. The parallels to the coming out process are easy to see.

 

Unicorns have long been a representation of the moon, embodying the mysterious, intuitive, and magical. Often considered the most wondrous of all mythical creatures, the unicorn is a symbol of miracles and enchantment. It appears to only a rare few and has the ability to bestow wisdom upon those who are pure of heart and virtuous in their deeds.

 

 

But unicorns no longer have to be lured from magical forests by pure maidens. They’re everywhere. If you’re a kid, unicorns are ubiquitous. If you’re a girl, they’re inescapable. And they’re cantering into the wider popular culture, too.

 

Nor is this purely superficial. The value of a unicorn, as something described as rare and magical, have seen the word used in various connotations, including in the business sector. In Silicon Valley, a unicorn can be a start-up business valued at more than $1 billion.  In Manhattan, a unicorn can be a really good apartment that is not insanely expensive.  In art collector circles, a unicorn can be that rare gem, artwork, or artifact that is as exotic as it is priceless.

 

As we have seen, a unicorn is also an elusive or unobtainable woman. In that context, a unicorn can be that hard-to-find bisexual woman (or sometimes man) who joins a polyamorous couple. As evident in the slang used on dating sites, a unicorn is that sexually adventurous woman who is willing to join an existing couple (and be the third member of a poly triad or thrupple), often with the presumption that this person will date and become sexually involved with both members of that couple. The unicorn will be the girlfriend to the couple.  The couple is usually considered a primary relationship, while the girlfriend will be a secondary partner to both.

 

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The unicorn was mentioned in ancient Greek, Hindu, and Hebrew literature during the Bronze Age. It was part of European folklore during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. In Chinese tradition the Unicorn is an auspicious and perfect spiritual beast which appears when sages are born

 

The unicorn has been popular at various points for at least 3,000 years. They were considered as real in the ancient world by the Greeks. They appear in books of natural history, not just books about the gods. The Old Testament contains possible mentions of unicorns, and from there they have been incorporated into Western art and culture, surfacing at various times, including the Medieval period and the Renaissance (in paintings and tapestries). The unicorn also has a role to play in Chinese mythology.

 

The lion and the unicorn are heraldic symbols of the United Kingdom, dating back to 1603. Their likenesses appear as part of the UK coat of arms: the lion representing England and the unicorn representing Scottland.

 

Historically, unicorns have been mentioned by Aristotle (Greek Philosopher), Ctesias (Greek Physician), Strabo (Greek Historian), Pliny the Elder (Roman Historian), Marco Polo (Italian Explorer), Leonardo da Vinci (Italian Artist), and Sir Thomas Brown (English Scientist).

 

One of the unicorn’s first appearances in fantasy literature was in 1871, in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass...  "Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn, "if you will believe in me, I will believe in you."

 

 

Unicorns appear in books, songs, and other media... 

 

Through the Looking Glass / Book by Lewis Carroll

Fantasia / Movie by by Walt Disney

Chronicles of Narnia / Book Series by CS Lewis

The Unicorn / Song by Shel Silverstein, Sung by Irish Rovers

Last Unicorn / Book by Peter Beagle

Wandering Unicorn / Book by Manuel Mujica Lainez

Dungeons & Dragons / Animated TV Series

Legend / Movie starring Tom Cruise and Tim Curry

Unicorn Chronicles / Book Series by Bruce Coville

Harry Potter & Philosopher's Stone / Book by JK Rowlin

Princess & The Unicorn / Book by Carroll Hughes

My Little Pony / Toys and TV Series by Hasbro

Cabin in the Woods / Movie by Joss Whedon

Star vs. Forces of Evil / TV Series by Disney

 

 

And there are, of course, hundreds of children's books about unicorns...

 

Uni the Unicorn, Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great, Lily the Unicorn, Claire & the Unicorn Happy Ever After, Twelve Dancing Unicorns, Today I'll Be a Unicorn, Sariah and the Magical Unicorn, Bella the Unicorn, Sugarlump & the Unicorn, Unicorns Are Real, The Unicorn in the Barn, The Unicorn Quest, I am a Unicorn, You Are My Magical Unicorn, The Unicorn of the West, Where Have the Unicorns Gone?, Goodnight Unicorn, The Magic of Unicorns, Stories of Unicorns, The Magic Unicorn, Unicorn of Many Hats, Do You Believe in Unicorns?, Unicorns Don't Give Sleigh Rides, Misty Morgan, Unicorn Alphabet, Twinkle Twinkle Unicorn, How to Catch a Unicorn, Always Hug a Unicorn, Enchanted Unicorn, The Little White Horse, Luna the Unicorn...

 

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The folklore surrounding unicorns began to develop early in the Christian era. It’s found in Islamic sources as well. This fierce creature would come tamely to a virgin female. It also became popular in that aspect of chivalry known as courtly love. A man is transfixed by his love of the lady and, like the unicorn, wins her and becomes tamed as the husband.

 

In the last century, the unicorn has made its appearance in the LGBTQ community. Rainbows and unicorns are so intrinsically linked that it’s not surprising that the magic creature started to appear on t-shirts and banners at Gay Pride parades around the world. The unicorn as a symbol of things that are fanciful, exotic, unique, and different makes it the perfect queer emblem.

 

The legend of the unicorn combines male and female in one beast and therefore rich in the symbolism of opposites. It represents the balance of the yin and yang. The unicorn can be a sweet, innocent pony, but it also has a phallic (sensuous) horn protruding from its head. It’s a symbol of freedom to be male and female. In other words, it’s an iconic example of the possibility to be whoever you want to be, separate from any limiting binaries. Its gender fluidity seems emblematic of our times and relevant to the genderqueer and transgender community.

 

 

Unicorns have a complicated mythological significance when it comes to queer culture, having represented everything from virgins to outsiders to Christ himself. But it is the unicorn’s resolute status as a wild being constantly under threat of capture, torture, and death, which is most significant to the queer community.

 

As an emblem that has relevance to those who feel odd, exotic, and different, the unicorn reminds us that some people are, in fact, fabulous beyond measure. The unicorn represents all that is pure, virtuous, wise, and hopeful. It is a symbol of magic, miracles, fantasy, and enchantment. The unicorn has endured in our culture because it’s just too lovely and too rare to ignore.

 

Unicorn: Emblem for Our Times

Unicorn Song

Why Millennials Love Unicorns and Mermaids

Unicorns and Rainbows

Info: LGBTQ Symbols and Icons

Unicorn Information

List of Mythical Creatures

Info: Rainbows

Mythology: Unicorns

Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing on Rainbows

  

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