Ten years ago today, this web post publicly introduced the intersex flag to the world for the first time. The design by Morgan Carpenter incorporated colours in yellow and purple, unassociated with gender. It contains a circle “unbroken and unornamented” to symbolise “wholeness and completeness, and our potentialities“. Moving away from the trend towards striped flags to create a pride symbol that was distinct and different. This has not only helped foster more constructive conversations about intersex bodies in identity-focused spaces but has also gained much broader community recognition.
Today the flag is inescapably associated with a worldwide human rights movement. One that recognises systemic injustice against intersex bodies and pursues vital protections. The flag is highly visible in all kinds of spaces where this work is happening, and news articles about our community are drenched in yellow and purple.
On the 10th anniversary of the intersex flag, Morgan offers this personal reflection on it’s role in the world today:
Back when I created the intersex flag, there were far fewer visible people with intersex variations than there are now. So most media stories about us used symbols to represent us: toilet door symbols, gender symbols, and even a pink, blue and while striped flag.
I didn’t think that these images were appropriate. I didn’t think it helpful to represent people with intersex variations with a symbol of “between-ness”, or a question mark about which toilet we should use. I wanted to represent not ideas about gender or sex, but instead a symbol about bodily autonomy and bodily integrity. I wanted to create a symbol of wholeness or completeness. This is what the circle on the flag represents. It’s what makes it distinctive, and what makes it relevant and useful.
You can’t be what you can’t see. ways that often only partially understand or represent who we are. In an era where people who are different are dehumanised and talked about in abstract ways, it is images of people that are by far the best kinds of image to use. But this is not always possible or safe. And symbols are also a powerful way of bringing people together, to address together the health and human rights issues we face. The intersex flag has done this in ways that I would have found unimaginable back in 2013. I feel incredibly privileged to see the flag used across the world, and to have that connection with groups on every continent. I wish you all the very best with your work.
To help celebrate the 10th anniversary we put out the call online for people to reflect on what the flag means to them. Here are the answers we got from all corners of the internet and all corners of the globe. Thank you to everyone who contributed.
Honestly the flag didn’t mean anything to me until it became about the people I met, the justice we sought, the work we did, the victories we won. Now it means the world to me. It is a flag that stands for loving, healing, forgiving, learning, and understanding. They are colours that I’ve seen create sanctuary and build relationships between strangers. Perhaps most importantly it is intrusive and hard to ignore, as we have needed to be pushing for legislation. Ten years ago this flag was only an idea of what pride could look like, today it’s something to be proud of.
I love our flag because it’s so unlike others (which is how we often are seen and treated, too). It is a strong visual symbol & I’m positively surprised i see it a lot more often than how things were just a few years ago.
The intersex flag for me means community! For me it’s the symbol of the moment that for the first time in my life, I didn’t feel alone in my intersex experience. I think for me it’s also a symbol of powerful unity.
The Intersex flag reminds me that I’m human. Just as human as the person sitting next to me on the subway or the person taking my food order on the phone. Just as human as Van Gogh and just as human as Frida Kahlo. We’re all human beings on this earth, and the flag includes and validates me in its wholeness. I feel so proud walking around with the flag of my identity, as I’m reminded that I’m not a mistake, not a disorder, not a monster, just a human.
It’s an instant sign of solidarity. When I see others using it in their profiles, or I see a post/article with our flag, I don’t feel as rare or isolated as this can feel in the real world. Its colours now mean intersex to me. Yellow and Purple for our community; this is us now. It started something that can never be stopped. Yes we might be invisible, our rights non existent, but that flag is never, ever going away. Amazing!
For me it means celebrating wholeness.
It means I don’t have to be alone anymore.
It feels like coming home. It feels like safety. Maybe like a warm hug. Thank you Morgan.
I appreciate the intersex flag: the yellow is joyful, the purple is a mixed/secondary color, and the circle for me represents our sex: none of us hit the quite near the center of the culturally-accepted “target” of M/F. I’m born intersex, but spent most of my life unaware of the concept, even though I was a church kid and Jesus addresses it.
I have a small interflag pin from Bonnie at Interlink. When I wear it, it reminds me of that one time I found kinship for a time with fellow inters. I talked to them of how my simple advocacy of living outwardly as a proud inter person helps me drop the burden of shame put on me as a child and hopefully makes life easier for the next beautiful inter souls that the people who learn my story meet; maybe even the future parent of an inter baby. The flag reminds me to be brave enough to keep that promise.
While I always viewed the 6-colour modified original Pride flag as being inclusive of all, once the Philadelphia and Progress flags started to be used, it wasn’t until the intersex version was created by Valentino Vecchietti that I felt it was inclusive enough.
The intersex flag is a powerful symbol that represents diversity and the struggle for the rights of intersex people around the world. For me, the intersex flag embodies a number of significant meanings and values.
It symbolizes visibility and recognition of an often invisible and marginalized community. In addition, the intersex flag is a constant reminder of the need for education and awareness around intersex issues. It helps to break down stereotypes and encourage empathy and inclusion.
The intersex flag also represents the struggle for self-determination and equal rights for intersex people.
It’s the color combination I notice everywhere which always makes my day!
Nick G Vary:
The flag to me means a symbol that I’m not alone. That’s a really important symbol on the days when PTSD is kicking my hiney and I’m lost in the memories of believing I was alone for decades.
It represents the community and support that I’ve searched for since youth. That I’m not alone and there are people like me who understand what I’ve been through. I’m glad that we have a unique flag that we can unite under to find love, friendship, support, and understanding.
Joy can win over pain. We are worth celebrating.
Personally I like that the intersex flag is so unique, and decidedly different from the LGBTQ+ flags that stand for identities. It illustrates how we can approach our bodies and their specificities apart from the notions of gender and attraction, bringing into view the whole complexity of the vast array of sexual traits and their potential ambiguity, reframing more fully the question of body autonomy that is otherwise not fully explored in mainstream discussions.
In simpler words, we don’t fit in and neither does our flag, and I think that’s great :)
If I’m being honest I can’t stand the colour yellow. When I learned I was intersex and found out about the flag I was a bit annoyed. But I love that other people love it and it starts a conversation. The connection it fosters with other people is really special.
I love how unique and easily recognisable the flag is. It can easily be included in existing pride designs to show support for us. A low barrier to entry is important given how poorly recognised and understood we are, and has led to the intersex inclusive progress pride flag etc-
The Intersex Flag is important to me because it is distinct from the rainbow. I’m happy to be a member of the rainbow community but recognise that not everyone feels this way.
I love that it contains a circle- a powerful symbol of wholeness. I am not broken, I am whole. I love that it is bright colours of yellow and purple- I can be who I am- unabashed, unashamed, vibrant and alive.
Most of all, I love that it was created by fellow Australian and Intersex leader and friend, Morgan Carpenter.
Two C’s. Community and Connection.
It means I’m talking to someone who understands. I get to open my heart.
I love the symbiology of the circle of us being whole, so often I’m told I’m “missing” or “lacking” parts due to my intersex condition, but I am not. This is just how my body is.
Orion (Who additionally wishes to be identified as BIPOC):
I love our flag cause, I guess, because intersex people sometimes queer communities treat us as total oddities. we’re marginalized and outcasted of even the most outcasted marginalized groups and I think having this flag is our way of having visibility.
The intersex flag, when I found it, instantly clicked with me. As we do, it defies the norms and expresses an alternative that is discomforting to those who are bound to tradition and expectations. Its mere existence is an affront to assumptions, making it exactly what it should be in representing us.
The flag to me means community. That community is one that, while our variations are different, share similar experiences. It means standing together in our difference and loving ourselves as we are.
I love our flag because it gives us a banner to rally under and find each other with. We are not anomalies, we are all part of the normal spectrum of human sexes. Our flag gives us visibility in a group of other “outcasts,” an eternal reminder that we’re here.
To me, the intersex flag is wonderful because the design perfectly sums up the message that I want people to understand- that we as intersex people are whole and complete as we are.
The flag is a gift to community. Morgan gave the flag away freely, with a Creative Commons zero (CC0) licence. No permission is needed for its use, and no royalties or payment are taken.