Trans flag creator Monica Helms reflects on its meaning in today's world

Monica Helms, the designer who created the transgender flag, shares sombre feelings for trans youth today.

Trans flag designer, Monica Helms, stands at a podium displaying the blue, pink, and white flag on her shirt.
Image: Twitter @Daniel_Fountain

Monica Helms, the creator of the trans flag, is reflecting on the progress and setbacks the LGBTQ+ community has experienced in her lifetime.

Helms is an American transgender activist and U.S. Navy veteran who created the trans pride flag in 1999. Her design includes five horizontal stripes, two light blue, two pink, and one white in the centre. Pink is a colour typically associated with the female gender, blue is usually associated with the male gender, while the white stripe in the flag represents people whose gender exists outside of the binary including those who are transitioning, intersex, non-binary or gender fluid.

The original flag was shared at the Phoenix, Arizona Pride Parade in 2000, and her design has served as symbol for the trans community across the world ever since. It is now on display in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Helms wrote an autobiography, More Than Just A Flag which outlines her experience as a trans woman lobbying for LGBTQ+ rights. In her book, she shares how she knew she was a girl when she was only 5-years-old, but she felt unable to express her gender identity because she grew up in a transphobic society. She disguised her feelings and experiences for four decades and only began living authentically at the age of 48.

While the fight for trans equality has made huge progress in her lifetime, with a recent increase of anti-trans legislation, Helms fears for today’s trans youth and worries that the current landscape of transphobia and right-wing extremism is bringing us back in time to the 1960s.

In reflecting on the time that has passed since she designed the flag, Helms said, “…we face increasing legislative attacks against our health care, history, and existence. As the creator of the Transgender Pride Flag, I fear where I may safely fly our flag.” She also said, “When I first started in activism, I told people I wasn’t doing this for myself, but for the trans people who haven’t been born yet. Well, they have now been born, grown into adults and are doing their own work to make us visible.”

Transgender Awareness Week is a time to reflect and celebrate the progress made, and also recognise that we need to continue to fight back against the transphobic laws that are being enacted, especially as trans healthcare is a national emergency in Ireland. When talking about the fight for trans rights moving forward, the trans flag creator said, “when we emerge from the struggle, our flag might be tattered, but it will not stop waving proudly.”

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