‘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.