Saturday, 9 June 2012

Putting Out the Trans Flags

The transgender community has used several flags and emblems over the years. Even within the trans community itself there are sub-communities which have begun to use their own flags. The design seen most often as the Trans Pride flag is this one.

This was designed by Monica Helms, a transsexual US navy veteran. Like a lot of transsexuals Monica felt that, in her own words, “something was different about me”. Growing up in the 1960s there wasn’t anyone or anything to explain this difference, so she accepted life as a boy while secretly praying to be turned into a girl.

During her time in the US navy Monica began cross-dressing. After leaving the navy she married and fathered 2 sons. It wasn’t until 1987 that she realised she was transsexual and began the transition in 1992.

In 1999 Monica designed the trans flag. As with other flag designers she didn’t feel the Rainbow Pride flag captured the separate identity of transsexuals and transgenders. The colours are baby blue and baby pink representing the traditional male and female colours. The white stripe represents those who are in the process of transitioning, or those who consider themselves to be of a neutral gender.

Monica’s design became accepted around the world quite quickly. In 2000 it was first seen as a flag at Phoenix Pride in Arizona in June. Like the colours of the Rainbow Pride flag the trans flag colours have been used in badges, logos and other designs by the community.

There are other trans flags that have emerged over the years and here are a few.

Perhaps the earliest trans flag is this one was created by the Queer Nation Transgender Focus Group on 17th October 1991.

Dawn Holland is responsible for the central design, using traditional gay and gender symbolism.

In 1999, at about the time Monica Helms came up with her design, someone on the internet called “Captain John” created this design.

Again, it uses the traditional baby pink and blue. This time a different trans emblem appears in the corner. I haven’t been able to discover if this design was actually flown.

Another popular though less seen trans flag is this one.

It was designed by Jennifer Pellinen and made its debut on her website on 20th July 2002. Jennifer was apparently unaware of Monica’s design and, like her, wanted to create a separate flag of identity for the trans community. Jennifer’s flag is clearly influenced by the Rainbow Pride flag and represents the various “shades” to transgenderism between the traditional pink and blue gender colours.

Finally, one flag which I personally find distinctive is this one flown in Ottawa, Canada, during the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance on 20th November (I am not aware of any other cities having their own flags for the Day of Remembrance).

It was designed by Michelle Lindsay sometime before 2009. It incorporates the transgender symbol that is becoming the most popular among several. Although this particular configuration of the male and female gender symbols may have been used before, the present accepted opinion is that it originated with the American Gender Talk radio station sometime before 2002. It was originally the idea of Holly Boswell of North Carolina, who passed the design on to Wendy Parker, who in turn passed it on to the founder of Gender Talk, Nancy Nangeroni, for computer generation.

Several communities who recognise a separate identity within the trans community have also adopted flags and designs.


  1. But it is strange that Jennifer Pellinen, couldn`t use another color code, than Bi-Pride flag color code?
    This flag, is more Bi-Pride telling, than transgender telling.
    Even the captain john flag gives me more trangender feeling, with or without the sex symbol male/female.
    Please, stick to the original colors. The first colors seems also to be the best of interests.

    1. I think there's a problem with the limited amount of colours being used to symbolise diffrent things. The colours of Jennifer's flag do seem to copy the bi flag. Personally, I prefer the use of logos or designs on flags rather than stripes. I love the Ottawa Transgender Day of Remebrance flag.

    2. I didn't know as much about flag design as I do now. In all reality it's not a very good flag. I didn't start to realize this until I went to the fabric store to pick up the cloth for a prototype. It was a bit of a pain in the butt to find the three shades of purple. As for my choice of colors, I wasn't trying to copy the bi flag. I don't recall if I was even aware of the bi flag at the time.

      One thing that has surprised me is that my flag is available from some flag shops. Somehow or another they found my design and decided to make flags out of it.

      I have some other designs in the works right now. Designs are that simpler and unique.

      Jennifer P

  2. The use of symbol/logo, shouldn`t be a "must have" on a flag. Since a flag is normaly transparent. What you see in front, is what you`ll get in the back.
    But the J. Pellinen`s flag, should much more be used as a community flag for the Trans and the Bi`s, since we do share a lot of common interests in the LGBT community.

    I get the same feeling, for my Bi-glag as i do with our Norwegian flag. But i feel even more identity with the flag of Pellinen. Du to the many variations in the Bisexuality, that this flag do show. But on the same time, I feel it also capture the Trans people as well. And I have seen that the Bi people, are also more open for rellations to Trans people.
    Unfortunaly, I haven`t found out, "who to ask" regarding the flag aprovals, for the LGBT society. Cause, there should be a world grand office, containing 2 repr. from each; hetero (m&f), bi, gay, lesbian and transgender (m&f).

    1. Simplicity is best. Sometimes a logo/design is needed. Take the break-up of Yugoslavia - suddenly a handful of new nations dropped the Communist star from the Yugoslav flag and had identical national flags of their own. Logos and devices are still the only way to distinguish most of them. With regards to "who to ask", perhaps representatives from the world's biggest lgbt groups could join in an international conference. Perhaps they could ask everyone to vote on-line. It'll be a big task to organise. I don't envy anyone taking it on.

    2. When I designed the flag, I didn't ask. I just threw it out there for anyone to use. Sometimes if you take the time to ask everyone, nothing gets done. When Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow flag did he go around asking everyone if it would be a good gay flag?

    3. Thanks for your input, and for your design. Actually, Gilbert Baker was asked by Harvey Milk to design a logo for the 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade. Gilbert came up with the flag instead. He wasn't asked specifically for a flag, but that's what we got.

  3. I reworked Jennifer's design as an overarching pride flag inclusive of both transgender and gender nonconforming people. This way it doesn't have to be abandoned entirely in favor of Monica Helms design. It can serve in its own right to signify all gender minorities.