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What to Know About the Trans Pride Flag

3 minute read

While rainbow-striped flags are the most iconic symbol of the LGBTQ+ community, several variations of the pride flag have been designed over the years to honor the sexualities and gender identities of people worldwide.

The transgender pride flag, representing 1.6 million people over the age of 13 who identify as transgender in the U.S., per the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, is one of them. The emblem was created by Monica Helms, a transgender activist and co-founder of the Transgender American Veterans Association, in 1999. 

The flag is a trifecta of colors, with the light blue and pink representing the gender roles assigned to children at birth. The middle white stripe, however, was included to honor people who are intersex, gender-nonconforming, or transitioning, according to Andy Campbell’s Queer X Design

The five striped flag is also symmetrical so that “no matter which way you fly it, it is always correct, signifying us finding correctness in our lives,” Helms said in Queer X Design.

The flag first debuted at a 2000 pride parade in Phoenix, though the original five-striped flag Helms created is currently at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. 

Genny Beemyn, the director of the Stonewall Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, tells TIME that flags “provide a sense of belonging to those who are part of the group and give people who want to be allies to individuals in that group a way to show their support.” In the last year, flying or waving pride flags has become heavily politicized.

Read More: Why Pride Month Is in June?

In Florida, cities can no longer light their bridges with any color outside of red, white, and blue, under new guidance from the local Transportation Department (although one city defied that regulation over the weekend). Residents in Huntington Beach, Calif., historically voted to ban the pride flag—along with other religious or breast cancer awareness flags—from being flown on any city property. Downey, another city in California, also opted to pass a similar “neutral” flag policy. Tennessee legislators also proposed a bill that would bar political and ideological flags from being displayed in public schools, though the measure fell through in April.

Across the Bering Strait, Russia has also targeted pride flags. The country’s Supreme Court classified the LGBTQ+ community as an extremist group in 2023. That decision also barred symbols of extremist organizations, including pride flags, from being displayed.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s most recent annual crime report showed that anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes in the U.S. had steadily risen from the year prior, with a near 33% increase in reported hate crimes based on gender identity. Last year, a record-setting number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced in state legislatures, leading the Human Rights Campaign to issue a national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. for the first time ever. The Department of State issued a worldwide travel advisory in May, citing increased attacks against LGBTQ+ people during Pride events.

Beemyn notes that the country is becoming increasingly polarized regarding trans issues. “Much of it is preying on people's ignorance and fears, especially about the trans community,” Beemyn says. “There may be a much longer road [for trans rights], given the level of hostility in this country towards trans people but it's going to change in time because young people are going to make a change.”

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