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Digital Subscriptions > GCN > 336 > Breaking the Silence

Breaking the Silence

In 1987 thousands of hand-pasted posters appeared overnight across New York City. Their subversion of a Nazi image became a symbol for the self-empowerment of AIDS activists, and in Trump’s America its inluence still reverberates to this day. Will St Leger of ACT UP Dublin meets the poster’s co-creator, Avram Finklestein, to talk about the agitprop movement sparked by Silence=Death.

In early 1987, thousands of graphic posters shot up on the walls of New York city. The posters had a black background in which a pink triangle floated above blocky white type, shouting the slogan, ‘Silence=Death’. The appearance of these hand-pasted bills created intrigue, dialogue and questions about their subject matter. To the casual viewer their stylised design seemed to match a familiar vernacular of 1980s advertising, but for queers they contained a forboding statement and an esoteric clue – the pink triangle.

The pink triangle’s history began in 1930’s Germany, when the Third Reich used it as a badge of shame to mark homosexuals in Nazi death camps. Although rooted in death and oppression, it was reclaimed by the post-war generation of gay men and women, who adopted it as a defiant motif of queer liberation.

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About GCN

Our second annual sex issue is a hotbed of intimacy issues, as we explore the effect dating apps have had on modern gay relationships with scientist and author Giovanni Frazzetto. We meet some of the crack-team making sure we’re all in good sexual health at the Gay Men’s Health Service, while Avram Finkelstein, one of the men behind the iconic 1980s Silence = Death poster, talks art and AIDS activism with ACT UP’s Will St Leger. Anna Mac Carthy Adams gives a timely update on the complex situation same-sex parents currently face, despite the passing of the marriage referendum and children’s legislation, and we meet the man behind the return of Silver Stars, a moving musical about gay men who dared to be out and proud in Ireland of the 1980s.