Creator of the transgender flag and navy veteran responds to Donald Trump’s ban
Monica Helms, a veteran of the US Navy and creator of the transgender flag, has spoken out about her time in service, her trans journey, and her opinion on Trump’s ban.
Helms served in the navy from 1970 to 1978, on the submarines USS Francis Scott and USS Flasher.
“What Trump did was strictly to serve his bigot followers and nothing else,” she told BuzzFeed News.
“Trans people have proven to serve well and without any issues, both in our country and several throughout the world.”
During her time in the navy, Helms didn’t even know what “transgender” means, though she started cross-dressing in secret in 1974.
Writing for Creative Loafing in 2009, Helms said “It was the deepest, darkest secret in my entire life. I would tell someone that I’d murdered someone before I’d tell someone I cross-dressed.”
It wasn’t until years after she left the service, in 1987 that she realised she was trans and began her transition.
Helms told HuffPost: “I’m very proud of being a submariner. The submariners that I met over the years, they’re OK with the fact that I served, and that I’m now a trans woman.
“I did the same job they did, and even though I’ve changed in this way, all of them have changed as well. So, we’re all shipmates, as it were. There’s a lot of strength in submariners and in their camaraderie.”
Helms came up with the trans flag in 1999, after she met Michael Page, the creator of the bisexual flag and he told her “the trans community needs a flag too”.
The idea for the design came to her quickly, hoping that the colours would mean something to people, with the white stripe in the centre representing the non-binary community.
She carried the flag everywhere with her for years, including to over a dozen colour guard pride parades, but it didn’t start gaining popularity until 2013.
Helms was astounded to see it suddenly spread across the US and the rest of the world, and when she realised it was getting big, donated the original flag to the Smithsonian Museum.
Helms also co-founded the Transgender American Veterans Association in 2003 and has produced a series of videos about transgender veterans, which she says she has sent to Trump.
“Many of our allies have trans people serving openly in their militaries and they have not had any problems. We did not have any problems when they first allowed transgender service members to be open last year,” Helms told HuffPost.
“It just doesn’t make any sense. Even Prince William served directly with a trans woman during his service in the UK. The woman was even at his wedding.”
Helms told BuzzFeed her adviceto young trans people was “Unite with each other, there’s safety in numbers. The community is the place where you meet people, you socialize, you may even fall in love.”
“Don’t be afraid of using your voice. Don’t be afraid.”
Watch the video interview with BuzzFeed and Transilient at Helms’ home last week.