The rainbow Pride flag is so iconic, but it's not the only Pride flag out there. While the rainbow flag represents the entire LGBTQ+ community, there's also a Bisexual Pride Flag, a Pansexual Pride Flag, an Asexual Pride Flag, and many others.
The rainbow flag, designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978, was already popular when Helms came up with her design. But she saw a need for a specific flag for the trans community. “I say the rainbow flag is like the American flag: everybody’s underneath that,” she told the Daily Beast in 2017. “But each group, like each state, has their own individual flag.”
What is the history of the flag?
Fellow activist Michael Page, who created the Bisexual Pride Flag in 1998, encouraged Helms to create her own design for a Transgender Pride Flag. The actual design — two blue, two pink, and one white stripe — came to Helms early one morning as she was waking up. “When you wake up and you’re still sort of groggy and everything but you’re starting to think and your mind is starting to fill with images — that’s when it came to me,” she told the Daily Beast. It was a case of “divine intervention.”
What do the colors mean?
The flag incorporates pale pink and blue stripes — colors traditionally associated with baby girls and boys — as well as a white stripe in the middle. Helms has described the symbolism of the colors as, “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."
The way the stripes are laid out is no accident, either. "The pattern is such that no matter which way you fly it, it is always correct, signifying us finding correctness in our lives,” Helms said.
How did the flag spread?
Helms first flew the flag solo in a Pride parade in Phoenix in 2000 and began bringing it with her to other LGBTQ+ parades, conferences, and events. The design caught on, first within the United States, and then internationally. “The speed with which the flag’s usage spared never fails to surprise me, and every time I see it, or a photo of it, flying above a historic town hall or building I am filled with pride,” Helms wrote in her 2019 memoir More Than Just A Flag.
Today, Helms’ original flag is displayed in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, where it is now part of the LGBTQ+ history collection. “It tells the world that trans people are part of this country,” she said when the display opened in 2014.