A major contributor to this article appears to have a close connection with its subject. (April 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
|Residence||Marietta, Georgia, United States|
|Spouse(s)||Darlene Darlington Wagner, PhD|
Helms has a General AA Degree and an AA in Industrial Television from Glendale Community College (Arizona) received in 1987 and graduated from Chattahoochee Technical College 2018 with an AA Degree in Television Production Technology.
Helms served in the US Navy from 1970-1978, and was assigned to two submarines, USS Francis Scott Key 1972-1976, USS Flasher 1976-1978. During her time in the Navy, Helms began cross-dressing while based in Charleston, South Carolina and says in an interview it was the "deepest, darkest secret in [her] entire life". She was reassigned to the Bay Area in 1976, and said she "felt like [she] could be out in public as [herself]".
Helms left the Navy in 1978, and joined her hometown's chapter of the United States Submarine Veterans, Inc. in 1996. After transitioning, Helms reapplied in 1998 to the Phoenix chapter of the veteran's group with the name "Monica" and received considerable push-back, including being referred to a more generic veteran's group for women rather than the submarine specific group. Helms eventually prevailed after a few months and claims to be the first woman to ever join the organization.
Helms created the Transgender Pride Flag in 1999, and it was first flown at a Pride Parade in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2000. Helms donated the original Transgender Pride Flag at the first ceremony honoring the addition of a collection of LGBT historical items at the Smithsonian on August 19, 2014.
Helms founded the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA) in 2003, and remained president until 2013. On May 1, 2004, TAVA sponsored the first ever Transgender Veterans March to the Wall. Fifty trans veterans arrived in DC and visited the Vietnam Memorial to honor people they knew whose names are on The Wall. They also made history when they became the first openly transgender people to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. They did it again in 2005. Helms continues to advocate for transgender service members and veterans, as the end of the prolific Don't Ask Don't Tell policy of the United States military did not change the status of transgender military personnel.
Her political activism includes lobbying state legislators in Arizona and Georgia, and Congress on Capitol Hill. She made history when she was elected as a delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts. She was the first trans person elected to a DNC Convention from Georgia and the South.
In June 2019, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, an event widely considered a watershed moment in the modern LGBTQ rights movement, Queerty named her one of the Pride50 "trailblazing individuals who actively ensure society remains moving towards equality, acceptance and dignity for all queer people".
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- Fairyington, Stephanie (12 November 2014). "The Smithsonian's Queer Collection". The Advocate. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
- Sankin, Aaron (20 Nov 2012). "Transgender Flag Flies In San Francisco's Castro District After Outrage From Activists". Huffington Post. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
- Katz, Joeli (20 Aug 2014). "LGBT historical items celebrated at the Smithsonian". GLAAD. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
- "Queerty Pride50 2019 Honorees". Queerty. Retrieved 2019-06-18.