Today, Monica Helms, a transgender activist and Navy veteran, presented the original transgender pride flag created 15 years ago this month to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The flag will be added to the Museum’s permanent archives along with several other objects that represent cultural milestones in LGBT history. Along with the transgender pride flag, the Smithsonian accepted artifacts from Helms’ military career and Renee Richards’ racquet used to play in the 1963 All-Navy Championship and the 1964 New York State Men’s Championship.
NCTE Executive Director, Mara Keisling, who joined Helms at today’s ceremony, said:
”The cuts of blue, pink, and white fabric that Monica first bound together 15 years ago now form a symbol of the trans community. They have fused forever into a flag that’s been carried into places previously unwelcome to us, charting community and fellowship in the face of violence and mistreatment. Finally today, that same fabric is being recognized as part of the red, white, and blue fabric that make up the richness of America. I’m deeply honored that today, the transgender pride flag—our flag—is being accepted as an American historical treasure that honors transgender people. Today’s ceremony is part of the forward cultural change that says—in the eyes of America—transgender people are here, have been here, and will always be here.”
At the ceremony today, Helms took a moment to remind the audience that, though the Smithsonian will accept the contribution of a transgender veteran, the Department of Defense refuses the service of transgender people. In her speech, Helms said:
”[S]ince the Smithsonian will be displaying items from my military career, they are also acknowledging that we have contributed to the security of our country since the Revolutionary War. We only hope that the Department of Defense and President Obama hears this message and allows transgender and gender non-conforming people the right to serve openly in the military, like our gay, lesbian and bisexual brothers and sisters are doing today.”
Today’s milestone comes three months after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that he is open to reviewing the regulations that bar transgender people from serving openly in the military. And the pressure to initiate this review grows as the three year anniversary of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” approaches next month. NCTE will continue to advocate the Department of Defense to review these regulations and welcome transgender people in the U.S. Armed Forces.