‘Rhinestone Rhino’ Unveiled in Birmingham UK’s Gay Village


I've posted about this project occasionally over the past year. The massive sparkling rhinoceros being approved by the Birmingham, England City Council to revitalize the city center and gay village is now a reality, the Birmingham Mail reports:

Three artists were commissioned to design and create the rhino: Emma Butler, Vikki Litton and Robbie Coleman. Emma said they started making the statue in February. It was made out of a polystyerene mould, carved into a rhino shape and then coated in fibreglass. Its “bling” was created out of 80 pieces of smashed mirror and dozens of fake diamonds.

“We’re immensely proud of it and feel like proud parents but know that it now belongs to the community,” she said.

She said they had also given the rhino – which is neither male or female but gender neutral – a “heart”. This is a memory stick put inside the statue containing music, photos, videos and stories from the city’s lesbian and gay community.

The rhino has been an until-now largely abandoned gay rights symbol.

From the website Lambda.org:

The purple rhino made its first appearance in December 1974. It was created by  two Boston gay rights activists: one source names Bernie Toal and Tom Morganti, another says it was Bernie Toal and Daniel Thaxton. The entire campaign was intended to bring gay issues further into public view. The rhino started being displayed in subways in Boston, but since the creators didn't qualify for a public service advertising rate, the campaign soon became too expensive for the activists to handle. The ads disappeared, and the rhino never caught on anywhere else.

As Toal put it, "The rhino is a much maligned and misunderstood animal and, in actuality, a gentle creature." But when a rhinoceros is angered, it fights ferociously. At the time, this seemed a fitting symbol for the gay rights movement. Lavender was used because it was a widely recognized gay pride color and the heart was added to represent love and the "common humanity of all people." The purple rhinoceros was never copyrighted and is public domain.


  1. Strepsi says

    I love it, and am in favor of public art in any form!

    You know what needs to be abandoned? Not the purple rhino, but the catty bitchy negativity of the first 3 comments on any given Towleroad post.

  2. Kevin_BGFH says

    “The ads disappeared, and the rhino never caught on anywhere else.” Actually, it did. A little. Not in the way the pink triangle did, or the Greek letter Lambda, or especially the rainbow flags. But there are still references to it. Theatre Rhinoceros in San Francisco, founded in 1977, is now the world’s oldest continuously gay theater company in the world.

  3. ratbastard says

    Still don’t like the concept of an ‘official’ gay village/gayborhood. Seems a little creepy to me, like the way Jews were put into official Jewish ghettos in Europe 100 years ago.

  4. ratbastard says

    I find it hard to believe you haven’t had the snot beaten out of you, Little Canadian. You are one smug, obnoxious pr*ck. Why don’t you go hook up with your fellow gay Canadian psychopath Luka Magnotta. Being both from Toronto area I’m sure you have loads in common.

  5. says

    i won’t apologize for being smarter than you, nor for being unafraid of straight people the way you clearly are.

    i understand that for a guy like you an anonymous online profile is your only outlet in life. you have my pity.

    and i like the rhino. it’s a gorgeous creature. :)

  6. Bo says

    I remember the first lavender rhino in Boston. I didn’t go for that image, just too bizarre for a logo. If I’d known what I know now I would have suggested they put it in a cage, to represent the next century’s laughable concept of gay marriage.

  7. Alex says

    Again no-one seems to be commenting on the obvious. It’s totally in the wrong place. High up on a building at an awkward angle. Most people arent even going to notice it much.

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