Navy Veteran and activist Monica Helms is the creator of the Transgender Flag.

Monica Helms was born in Sumter, South Carolina, but grew up mostly in Arizona. She graduated from high school in 1969 and started her service in the Navy in 1970, continuing her family’s legacy of military service.

In the Navy, Helms was a nuclear-trained machinist mate and worked on submarines. Helms was assigned to USS Francis Scott Key submarine from 1972–1976 and USS Flasher from 1976–1978. Helms’ time in the Navy helped her grow as a person and strengthened her independence, which has served her well during her life as an activist. In 1987, Helms received a general associate’s degree as well as an associate’s in industrial television from Glendale Community College in Arizona.

Helms began her gender transition in 1997. The very next year, she reapplied to her local Phoenix, Arizona, chapter of the United States Submarines Veterans Inc. Helms had previously applied and been a member in 1996 but faced conflict after changing her name. Helms persevered and was one of the first women to join the organization.

In 1999, Helms created the transgender flag after she was encouraged by Michael Page, the creator of the bisexual flag, to design a flag to represent her community. The transgender flag has a palindromic design with five stripes. There are two light blue stripes to represent the traditional color for boys, two pink stripes to represent the traditional color for girls, and a white stripe in the middle for members who are transitioning, gender neutral or intersex.

Helms debuted her flag in 2000 at a Pride parade in Phoenix, Arizona. Over time, the flag was picked up by the transgender community and is now seen around the world, even as an emoji on iPhones and androids. Helms donated the original flag she made, and it can be seen at the Smithsonian.

In 2000, Helms moved to Atlanta, Georgia, so she could be closer to Washington, D.C., where she often worked to advocate for transgender people and transgender Veterans. Helms’ activism led to the founding of the Transgender American Veterans Association in 2003, an organization Helms was president of until 2013. In 2004, Helms was elected as a delegate in the Democratic National Convention, becoming the first transgender delegate from Georgia. Helms is dedicated to her activism, and her proudest moments are when she is able to see her persistent advocacy creating a change.

Helms currently lives in Atlanta and has been involved in Atlanta’s Transgender Day of Remembrance annual event and planning for many years. While in Georgia, she also attended Chattahoochee Technical College, graduating with an associate’s degree in television production technology in 2018. In 2019, 50 years after the Stonewall Riots, Queerty named Helms one of the Pride50, a group of “trailblazing individuals who actively ensure society remains moving toward equality, acceptance, and dignity for all queer people.” She also published her memoir, “More Than Just a Flag,” that same year.

We honor her service.


Writer: Kimberly Kassis

Editors: Christopher Wilson, Elissa Tatum

Researcher: Crystal Moore

Graphic Designer: Katie Rahill

AVS for Frank DeVita on D-DayFrank DeVita: From Brooklyn to Omaha
Sheri Swokowski AVSSheri Swokowski: American Hero

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

16 Comments

  1. Nathan Leu June 18, 2021 at 10:19 am

    Thank you for your service and your activism fir LGBT rights.

  2. Wiechmann Ronald June 17, 2021 at 6:46 am

    I’m sure all of you with these negative and hate filled comments consider yourselves fine, upstanding Christians. You are anything but that. Transgender people don’t “choose” a lifestyle, they were born this way. Show some compassion for your fellow man or woman and get rid of all the hate.

    • Rusty June 18, 2021 at 4:52 am

      The heigth of cruelty and hatred would be to suggest to a confused, mentally unstable person that genital mutilation will make them well or satisfied. Children are not born racist, they observe and learn from adults. Children are not born confused about their gender, their innocence and vulnerability are preyed upon by sick, cruel and small minded adults. That is hatred.

  3. Rusty June 17, 2021 at 5:55 am

    Keep the faith Larry. The people who are pushing this agenda are in the minority. They are either mentally ill or are trying to protect their careers. The majority of people in the military disagree with the redefining of marriage by the SC. Sadly they must now go along to get along until our elections are “cleaned up”.
    Hopefully the suicide rate does not continue to increase as normal people are forced to comply with immorality or be shunned by current government and military officials. Hopefully normal young people who are serving know we are still the majority and they have our support.

  4. S McCann June 16, 2021 at 11:33 pm

    The government is trying to politicize the military and every aspect of our lives. If you are truly an American patriot then you are green and that is it. This effort to divide veterans into “special” groups is just a way to pit us against each other. Stop defining veterans by differences. We are all just “veterans” period! The VA needs to focus on it’s job and that is to improve it’s services not virtue signal. Or maybe all this is just a distraction from the VA’s failings! I am a Marine who just happens to be female and I will not join any female only veterans groups because we veterans are suppose to be one team one fight not many teams many fights.

  5. Dan Curtis June 16, 2021 at 11:22 pm

    This is not the place for this self aggrandizing article. Not a service related matter.

    I’m disgusted that the VA continues to publish anything about these issues. Stop.

  6. Sharon Smith-Hensley June 16, 2021 at 8:07 pm

    “She wasn’t a she” while serving on a sub so shouldn’t the article start with while he served in the navy? then go into the transitioning of the “she” part of the story. I personally don’t care about the gender issue because it is not really anyone’s business. Go back to don’t ask don’t care. Someone’s decision to change their gender they were born with is between them and God. Do own what you were though and what you are now though.

  7. Melanie Clark June 15, 2021 at 2:19 pm

    There is no way I will ever believe that men can become women or vice versa. Gender dysphoria is a mental illness like bipolar, which I have or schizophrenia, like my half-brother. I am in treatment. They should be also.

  8. Bill Powell June 14, 2021 at 8:22 am

    Very disheartening to see this kind of stuff foisted upon an Honorable community. Yet another indication of the ongoing decline of a formerly great Nation. I hope a price is paid.

  9. Daniel Weinberger June 14, 2021 at 12:21 am

    cool, thank you for sharing. It is a nice little flag
    blue to pink for stereotypical boy to girl
    pink to blue for stereotypical girl to boy
    and white for everyone else

    -Dani (She/They)

  10. Dusty Jarnagin June 11, 2021 at 8:11 am

    There was a time when all the homosexual just wanted to be left alone. Well I would also liked to be left alone from all this crap. They are free to be who they want but quit promoting lifestyles that aren’t normal.

  11. Wallace Rogers June 10, 2021 at 9:43 pm

    How many of the veterans families of the heros at Iwo Jima did you check with before associating their task of a huge battle that killed many Americans with that of creating a different flag that supports a 3rd sexual orientation? How many did you ask?

  12. Larry Grebe June 10, 2021 at 7:56 pm

    MODERATION? do you mean censoring? You can just go ahead and throw out the whole comment rather than moderate it into something I never intended.

  13. Larry Grebe June 10, 2021 at 7:52 pm

    Once again I have failed to have my comments posted because ‘My Capta’ wasn’t posted. I think that is the ‘solve’ box right before Post Comment. I will try it anyway and just in case it goes through I will hastily sum up my previous posts.

    I am sorry to report that I an NO longer PROUD to say that I am a veteran . At the age of 72 I can honestly say that I am PROUD of my service to my country and the friendships that started 50+ years ago and continue today. It’s a shame to see what the public and our liberal government have ALLOWED the United States Military’s to become.

    I say good by with a sad heart to any and all publications (brainwashing, indoctrination, etc) from the United States Military and the Veterans Administration that chose tp support and, or sponsor this type of rhetoric. Can’t we all do our DUTY without a separate flag? Isn’t the United States Flag good enough??

    • randy Horne June 13, 2021 at 3:38 pm

      Totally agree Larry G.
      I also will be canceling any subscriptions to the VA or any Military Publications.
      If they only go in for this BS recognition, then they can have it, ALL OF IT.
      ALL this is so sad, but the world is upside down now and I just hope I can make it out of here in Glory and Grace.

      • Rebecca Paige Epps June 25, 2021 at 3:30 pm

        No, the American flag isn’t good enough. Not until we are all accepted and not hated or merely tolerated. This is the 21st century and it’s about time we started moving forward instead of trying to get back to the days of segregation and such (like I’m sure many of you all out there wish would happen).

Comments are closed.

You Might Also Be Interested in These Articles