June 23, 2016

Reflections on a Possible Crossdreamer Pride Flag

Transgender flag presented in Pride parade (Getty).
We are in the middle of the global Pride season. There seems to be a flag for any sexual and romantic orientation possible, and others for  gender identity.  But is there one for crossdreamers and crossdressers? And do we need one?

As regards the second question:

Probably not, as most -- if not all -- crossdressers and crossdreamers fit under the transgender umbrella. They are all -- in one way or the other -- gender variant.

The transgender flag

And we already do have a transgender flag, created by American trans woman Monica Helms in 1999.

The transgender flag
Helms described the meaning of the transgender pride flag as follows: 
"The stripes at the top and bottom are light blue, the traditional color for baby boys. The stripes next to them are pink, the traditional color for baby girls. The stripe in the middle is white, for those who are intersex, transitioning or consider themselves having a neutral or undefined gender. The pattern is such that no matter which way you fly it, it is always correct, signifying us finding correctness in our lives."
Some still find it a bit traditional, restrictive and binary (especially because of the baby color reference), but as far as I can see, there is ample room for non-binary transgender identities under this flag. The description may -- for instance -- include crossdreamers and crossdressers who present as their assigned gender, but who still feel the need to express the other side of their personality. 

Besides,  many crossdreamers find that they are  transsexual, and end up presenting and living as their target gender.

A crossdreamer flag proposal

But there is more to flags than actually having to fly them in public, as a recent discussion over at Crossdream Life  clearly demonstrates.

Lost247365  presented this sketch of a possible crossdreamer flag some days ago. It was Lost's presentation and the following discussion that caught my interest, more than the question of whether this flag will actually ever fly in a Pride parade.

Lost's crossdreamer flag proposal
Lost explained it this way:
"I know I would try and make [a flag] that incorporated Caeneus spear for FTM crossdreams and two snakes to represent Tiresias and MTF crossdreams.  Maybe some wings and red poppies to represent Morpheus the god of dreams (and a TG author I really like) and desire."
Lost had already presented some of these mythical symbols in figures in another interesting thread on the forum.

The symbols are all meaningful from a crossdreamer and transgender perspective:

1. The spear of Caeneus.

Lost presents the myth about Caeneus in this way in the  mythology thread over at Crossdream Life:
"In this myth, Poseidon takes an interest in a young nymph named Caenis (the daughter of the demi-god Atrax).  So one day while she was at the beach he rapes her.  Afterwards, she is so distraught by what happens that Poseidon regrets his actions and decides to make it up to her by granting her any wish that she desires.   
Caenis wishes to be a man and that no one would ever penetrate her again.  Poseidon then goes to Hephaestus and has him create a magic spear for her.  He  gives the spear to her and it turns her into a man and makes his skin impenetrable to any weapon.  Caenis then masculines his name to Caeneus and goes and joins the Lapith army."
Caeneus fighting centaur.
This is clearly a story deeply embedded in ancient archetypes, the phallic spear representing penetration and traditional male power.

I should add that not all female to male crossdreamers are  looking for this kind of power, but for some their fantasies may actually include "being on top", both in the sexual and the traditional social way.

By the way: In mystical Christianity the spear may also indirectly refer to the female.

In the Gospel of John Jesus is pierced with a spear while on the cross, and blood and water come out. This has been interpreted as a symbol of birth, giving Jesus the role of the mother of rebirth. This was a common idea all the way up to the Baroque period.

2. The staff of Tiresias:
Tiresias being turned into a woman.
Engraving by Johann Ulrich Kraus c. 1690.

Students of English literature will probably know Tiresias from T. S. Eliot's "Wasteland". Tiresias, the man, came upon two snakes copulating, and decided to part them with his staff.

This angered the goddess Hera so much that she decided to turn him into a woman.

I guess her anger stems from his attempt to stop nature from running its natural course. Hera was a goddess of nature, after all.

Tiresias became a priestess of Hera, married and had children.

In some of her incarnations Tiresias takes on the role of the temple priestess and prostitute, similar to the ones of mother goddesses like Inanna and Cybele. (The priestesses of Cybele were originally castrated transgender women, if we allow ourselves to use the terminology of today).

You can also see the parallel to shamanistic cultures, where the shaman may change gender or merge them both.

Tiresias was also blinded. Blindness often refers to the gift of inner sight, and the ability to see beyond traditional categories. Transgender people often find themselves forced into these types of insights when they struggle with their own identities.

The caduceus of Hermes.
Tiresias found the snakes again in some versions of the story; she left them alone and was returned to the shape of a man.

(By the way, there is one amusing part of the Tiresias story that may serve as a correction to the 19th century myth of the timid, low libido, woman.

Tiresias was asked by Hera and Zeus on who experienced the best sex, men or women. Tiresias, who had been both, told the two that women got ten times as much pleasure out of  sex as men do. MTF crossdreamers will not be surprised when they hear this.)
Hellenistic statue of Hermaphroditus.

In the discussion over at Crossdream Life I added that the two snakes with wings may also refer to Hermes, the messenger of the gods, and his staff, the caduceus. As I see it crossdreamers and crossdressers often do carry the message that the world is much more complex than many people would like it to be.

Besides, together with Aphrodite Hermes got the child Hermaprhoditus (i.e. Hermes+Aphroditus), who came to be merged with the water nymph Salmacis, joining the male with the female.

The two snakes clearly refer to the polarity of male and female, while the way thye are interwined points to the fact that the two opposites are depending on each other, and overlapping.

3. The poppies of Morpheus:

The Greek god of dreams slept in a cave full of poppy seeds. Morpheus was the dream messenger of gods, communicating their messages through images and stories, created as dreams. He was another kind of Hermes, if you like.

I also enjoy the link to Morpheus, who -- as many of us know -- was incarnated in Laurence Fishburne in the Matrix movie, a movie made by two transgender women (and most likely crossdreamers): Lana and Lily Wachowski.

In The Matrix Morpheus is the one presenting Neo with the famous red and blue pills. The red pill (in the binary referring to the female) is the one that leads to enlightenment. A coincidence? I do not think so.

The blue rose

Another relevant symbol that popped up in the Crossdream Life discussion was the blue rose, first presented by JustEva.

Blue rose flag with a St. Andrew's cross representing 
crossdressing and crossdreaming. 
My design, with rose by Iryna Neklyudova.
She argues that the blue rose  is a symbol of  dreams of transcendent, inaccessible beauty. It points to the the dream of becoming something, something that you cannot become by traditional means.

However: You may paint a white rose blue, making a symbol of crossdressing and other crossdreamer activities.

Or you may use new scientific methods: "In case of blue rose - genetic modification, in case of us, hormonal and surgical transition."


  1. Great post Jack!

    As I said on CDL, I like the symbolism in my flag but Eva's suggestion was truly a beautiful idea. And, I really like the way you ran with that idea to create a flag. I think it is very elegant and simple, great qualities in a pride flag. Amazing job~!

    Whichever version turns out to be the most popular, I think it will be a great addition to the community~!

  2. I have to say, I cannot decide. I appreciate Lost's complex symbolic interpretation — because at least it forces people to look up the classics and understand that transgender issues have been with us all the time, it's not just a late 20th century 'fad'. On the other hand, Eva's simplicity of design might make more sense for many people.

    I should have taken some time to keep up with the forum and present my own suggestion, which would have been similar to Eva's: the transgender flag at the bottom, with a lotus flower in bloom at the centre. It has two main meanings: the lotus flower is associated with dreaming, especially lucid dreaming which dispels nightmares — thus the famous 'lotus flower dreamcatcher' design — and certain cultures (like the Egyptians) probably brewed a mildly psychoactive tea out of the blue lotus flower. And, of course, in the Far East, the lotus is the traditional symbol of enlightenment — because it floats atop muddy waters while the flower is always unblemished.

  3. I love the symbolism of the lotus flower, as it forces you to look at that what appears dark and dirty in a new way. Or as Jung would have said: Personal growth comes from exploring and assimilating the things that you fear and despise about yourself.

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  5. I would include a Venus' mirror, symbol of feminine beauty, and/or a crowned seated woman, representing Cybele, ancient Mother Goddess Whose priests were all m-t-f transgenders.


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