“We need to see flags that include, support and celebrate
BY VALENTINO VECCHIETTI
It plays like a video in slow motion in my mind: the hot, early afternoon sun. The bright splash of our yellow flag with its purple ring, slowly sweeping across the vivid blue sky. The imposing white stone buildings lining the street.
We were in the centre of London and on either side of us was a cacophony of colours and people pressed together. They were cheering and waving behind barriers, as our small group of intersex people and allies walked the Pride route in 2018. I remember feeling apprehensive. I wasn’t sure what would happen or how we would be received. I have experienced a lifetime of shame and stigma. But overwhelmingly, the good will of the crowd that day meant that, even if they didn’t know what intersex was, when they saw us waving our flags, signs and placards, they cheered and waved back. Somehow all the details didn’t matter because it felt like suddenly we were all together. We were marching for equality, for visibility, for a place in this world. Facing my fear, I grasped in that moment a vision that one day all intersex people would be able to live freely and openly, and celebrate our existence. I was engulfed with emotions, but also a resounding sense of hope.
In that same year, the Pride Progress flag was born. Previously, civil rights activist Amber Hikes had redesigned the
rainbow flag to include black and brown stripes to represent people of colour. Daniel Quasar later built on that, including the colours of the trans flag. When I saw the new flag, it instantly made sense to me that it should exist. It felt like a joyful visual and cultural statement of inclusion and I wished our intersex flag could be included too. I also wished that the crowds at Pride knew more about intersex. So for 2021, I have redesigned the Pride Progress flag to make it intersex inclusive. When I posted our new flag on our Intersex Equality Rights UK Instagram, for our intersex inclusion campaign, we had such an amazing response. Intersex people and allies across the world told us that it’s bringing them so much joy.
The word intersex and how we use it is more complicated than it seems. We all need different language for different contexts. And we need to respect the terms with which people choose to refer to themselves, while also needing terms that can work legislatively.
In the UK, the government has used the umbrella term “variations in sex characteristics” (VSC), and this will likely be used when we gain legislative inclusion. The umbrella term “intersex” is often used in cultural and empowering contexts. The different language used to describe us in medical settings is seen by some as pathologising. Whatever term we choose to use to describe ourselves, whether intersex, VSC, variation of sex development, a named variation or the medical term “disorder of sex development” (DSD), it’s about respecting and acknowledging each other’s choices.
However, culturally we have a flag which was designed in 2013 by Morgan Carpenter of Intersex Human Rights
Australia (IHRA). This cultural symbol of hope, unity and resistance is not called the VSC flag or the DSD flag. It is called the intersex flag and many of us feel inspired, empowered and joyful when we see it.
We need to see flags that include, support and celebrate our community. This is why I designed our new intersex-
inclusive Pride Progress flag. It creates significant cultural inclusion and I hope that organisations will show support and allyship by using it. We are freely sharing our graphic for anyone to use in their social media posts. People can also message us on our Instagram account if they would like a high resolution image to make into a flag.
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