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All about the Trans flag

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May 30, 2022

All about the Trans flag
  • The transgender pride flag is now a widely recognized symbol, but that hasn’t always been the case. You likely now recognize the blue, pink, and white trans flag as a symbol for the trans community, but how did this striped flag come to be, and what do the colors actually mean?

    With recent harmful legislation in the U.S. against the transgender community, it’s more important than ever to grow our allyship for our trans friends. Becoming more educated on transgender history and visibility is a great place to start! 

    Read on to learn more about how the transgender flag we know today became a symbol of progress and pride for the transgender community. 


    History of the Transgender Flag

    Although today we can easily picture the transgender pride flag in our minds– and can even type it in emoji form 🏳️‍⚧️ – that was not always the case. It wasn’t until 1999 that transgender activist and navy veteran Monica Helms decided it was about time the transgender community had a pride flag of their own to wave high. 

    Monica Helms, born in 1951, served in the U.S. Navy from 1970-78. From the early age of 5, she knew something about her was fundamentally different, and she began to pray to God to turn her into a girl. It wasn’t until 41 years later that she realized she was a woman, and she started her transition. Her experience of loneliness that came with the knowledge of being in the wrong body, from childhood to adulthood, empowers her work today as a trans activist– helping to build a world where no person feels unsafe to be who they are.

    Today, Helms is best known as the “transgender Betsy Ross” for being the woman to create the trans pride flag. In 1999, her friend and fellow activist Mike Page, who created the bisexual flag, encouraged Helms to design a transgender flag. One day, in the fog of waking up in the morning, the idea for the flag came to her. She sewed together the panels of blue, pink, and white fabric to create the first-ever transgender flag. 

    In 2000, Helms displayed her flag for the first time at the Phoenix Pride parade, and it quickly gained traction. She continued to bring it to protests, marches, and transgender days of remembrance, and in 2013, she even started to see it being used in other countries.

    Helms’ work as an activist also includes founding the Transgender American Veteran Association, lobbying state legislators around the country, and delegating for the Democratic National Convention to fight for the trans community. To this day, she is “filled with pride” whenever she sees her creation being displayed, knowing that her work has indeed saved lives.

    Meaning of the trans flag

    The thoughtful symbolism of the colors in the transgender pride flag is largely responsible for the quick acceptance of the flag in the LGBTQ+ community.

    It’s hard to sum up the entire trans experience into one flag, but Helms’ creation came close. According to Helms:

    The stripes at the top and bottom are light blue, the traditional color for baby boys. The stripes next to them are pink, the traditional color for baby girls. The stripe in the middle is white, for those who are intersex, transitioning, or consider themselves having a neutral or undefined gender.

    Essentially, the pink and blue represent the traditional genders, and the orientation of them represents the experience of transitioning. Helms also states, “The pattern is such that no matter which way you fly it, it is always correct, signifying us finding correctness in our lives.” For Helms, creating the trans flag symbolizes her journey of finding her own “correctness” in her life as she transitioned to live as her authentic self.

    Alternative designs for the trans flag

    There is more than one transgender flag used today that you also may see waving throughout Pride month. Michelle Lindsay created the transgender flag below in 2010, with the transgender symbol atop two blue and pink stripes.

    There is also a flag for genderqueer transgender folks, who don’t resonate with the transition to traditional gender binaries. Here, you can see the lavender, white, and green stripes created by Marilyn Roxie to symbolize more diverse gender identities. While the lavender represents an androgynous mix of pink and blue, the white represents agender, and the green signifies the third gender.

    The Trans Pride Flag Today

    Today, the original trans flag is seen on t-shirts, pins, and hats, in small and large form at Pride parades around the globe, and even as an emoji. In 2014, the Smithsonian accepted the original trans pride flag handmade by Monica Helms into the museum, where it still resides today. 

    As legislation in recent years has pushed back the progress for our transgender friends, such as the transgender military ban and exclusion of trans children in Title IX, it’s more important than ever to raise the trans flag with pride.

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    Katie is a writer and creative person based in Seattle who is passionate about the arts, environmental justice, and all things vintage fashion. She celebrates queerness as a natural yet radical state of being, and she strives to make the world a more inclusive place for all. You can find her taking meditative strolls in the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest channeling her inner Bella Swan, or just on IG @ktmarieeee.

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