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Transgender artifacts added to Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Mara Keisling and Monica Helms with the transgender pride flag hanging behind them. The flag is among several artifacts added to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
Mara Keisling and Monica Helms with the transgender pride flag hanging behind them. The flag is among several artifacts added to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
photo courtesy of the National Center for Transgender Equality

WASHINGTON D.C. - In an effort to better document LGBT history in America, Several transgender artifacts of historical significance were added to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History during a ceremony held on Tuesday.

Transgender artifacts added to Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Photo courtesy of Billy Hathorn

Among the items that were accepted into the Museums permanent archives was the original transgender pride flag which was designed 15 years ago by transgender activist and Navy veteran, Monica Helms. The flag was first shown at a pride parade in Phoenix Arizona in 2000. Helms personally appeared at Tuesday’s ceremony to presented the original flag to the Museum, which have also added artifacts from Helms’ military career as well.

In addition to Helm’s flag and Military artifacts, the Museum also added the tennis racket used by Renee Richards in both the 1963 All-Navy Championship and the 1964 New York State Men’s Championship. Richard’s won a landmark New York Supreme Court decision for transgender rights after she was denied entry to the U.S. Open in 1975 due to being transgender. These items will be added to the Museum’s permanent archives along with several other objects that represent cultural milestones in LGBT history, including artifacts from the famous 1969 Stonewall Riots.

Mara Keisling, Director for the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), was in attendance at today’s ceremony. As reported by the NCTE, Keisling gave the following statement in regards to Helms’ original transgender pride flag...

”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.” - Mara Keisling, NCTE Executive Director

As also originally reported by the NCTE, Helms had the following response in regards the museum’s inclusion of her flag and military artifacts...

”[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.” - Monica Helms

The Smithsonian museum is located in Washington D.C. on the National Mall near the Washington Monument at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue.