The two standard gender symbols denoting male ♂ and female ♀ are derived from astrological symbols, denoting the classical planets Mars and Venus, respectively. These symbols have been in use since the Renaissance also denoting elements in alchemy, specifically the metals iron and copper.
Another, perhaps more ancient, interpretation of these gender symbols names them as the spear for men and the distaff for women. A distaff ( pronounced dih'-staf ) is a weighted spinning tool on a string used for creating threads and yarns.
|Mars symbol (U+2642 ♂). The symbol for a male organism or man.|
|Venus symbol (U+2640 ♀). The symbol for a female organism or woman.|
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Numerous variations of gender symbols have been developed in the context of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) culture since the 1990s. Some of these symbols have been adopted into Unicode beginning with version 4.1 (2005).
|From the symbol of Mercury (U+263F ☿). This symbol is used to indicate a virgin female (for example, in genetic analysis).|
|From the female and male symbols (U+26A5 ⚥). Intersex or transgender.|
|Another transgender symbol, a combination of the male and female sign with a third, combined arm representing non-binary transgender people (Unicode: U+26A7 ⚧).|
Other gender symbols in Unicode 4.1+:
- ⚢ (U+26A2)
- Double female sign, sometimes used as a female homosexual symbol
- ⚣ (U+26A3)
- Double male sign, sometimes used as a male homosexual symbol
- ⚤ (U+26A4)
- Interlocked male and female sign, occasionally used as a heterosexual symbol
- ⚦ (U+26A6)
- Male with stroke sign, used as a symbol for transgendered.
- ⚨ (U+26A8)
- Vertical male with stroke sign
- ⚩ (U+26A9)
- Horizontal male with stroke sign
- ⚪ (U+26AA)
- Medium white circle base, used as a symbol for asexuality, sexless or genderless
- ⚲ (U+26B2)
- Neuter. This is in fact the shape of the original (medieval) "Venus" symbol (depicting a hand mirror), the additional horizontal bar being of modern date.
- ∅ (U+2205)
- Empty set, used for agender and neutrois
- continuing medieval (11th century) symbols known from Byzantine manuscripts, possibly with precedents in horoscopic papyri of Late Antiquity (late 4th century).
- The Origin of the Male and Female Symbols of Biology, William T. Stearn, Taxon, Vol. 11, No. 4 (May, 1962), pp. 109-113
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