Skip to main content

Fostering Community: What Raising a Flag Really Means

June 5, 2024

By Lukas D’Ambrosio Communications Office
Four flags raised in front of a building

The Intersex-Inclusive Pride flag raised at DOC Headquarters alongside the American flag, Washington State flag and POW MIA flag (Lukas D’Ambrosio, Communications Office)

See Photo Gallery

On June 3, 2024, the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) made history by raising the Intersex-Inclusive Pride flag at its headquarters for the first time. This event marks a significant milestone in the DOC's ongoing efforts to foster an environment of inclusivity and support for the LGBTQ+ community, both among staff and those incarcerated. The Intersex-Inclusive Pride flag, the most up-to-date symbol of LGBTQ+ unity, was designed by Valentino Vecchietti of Intersex Equality Rights UK. It features a purple circle on a yellow background on the left side, representing wholeness and completeness, with the colors yellow and purple chosen for their gender-neutral connotations.

The flag-raising was a symbolic gesture reflecting the DOC's commitment to making all community members feel safe and supported, both mentally and physically.

"By raising this flag, we are sharing our values of being welcoming and inclusive," said DOC Secretary Cheryl Strange during her remarks at the event. "We are dedicated to creating more inclusive spaces and supporting the LGBTQ+ community."

DOC Headquarters staff, including members of the executive leadership team, was in attendance for the flag-raising ceremony, underscoring the importance of this initiative. The department's Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect (EDIR) played a pivotal role in organizing the event. The EDIR Office is instrumental in disseminating these practices across all aspects of the DOC, working to weave equity into the fabric of the department's operations.

“The symbolism means so much to so many people,” said DOC EDIR Director, Yến Huỳnh. “We would be hard pressed to find someone that isn’t connected to the LGBTQ+ community in some way. It so important that we show our support as we work towards representation, inclusion and belonging at the department. We want to normalize being yourself and create an environment that is physically and psychologically safe to do so.”

Raising the Intersex-Inclusive Pride flag is part of a broader effort by the DOC to support LGBTQ+ staff and those in the department’s care and custody. This initiative includes creating safer, more inclusive environments and addressing the unique needs of the LGBTQ+ community within the correctional system. The DOC's measures are aimed at fostering a sense of belonging and respect for all individuals such as forming a gender-responsive team.

The Gender Responsive Services Team is a cross-divisional team comprised of Gender Responsive Services, Health Services, Gender Affirming Care, PREA Services, Transgender Services, and Person-Centered Care. The purpose of the Gender Responsive Services Team is to share critical information with staff and the population, and to develop, implement, and sustain a comprehensive approach to correctional services.

Secretary Strange is inviting other facilities within the DOC to follow suit and raise the pride flag, further spreading the message of acceptance and equality across the state. Some prisons have organized events celebrating Pride Month with both staff and incarcerated individuals.

As the Intersex-Inclusive Pride flag waves proudly above the DOC Headquarters, it stands as a testament to the department's dedication to equity and justice for all. This historic event is not only a celebration of LGBTQ+ pride but also a call to action for continued progress and advocacy.

“While we stand here, celebrating raising this flag, it is important that we take the time to think of other marginalized groups whose flag may have never been raised like this,” said Strange.

The Intersex-Inclusive Pride flag raised next to the American flag, Washington State flag and POW MIA flag at DOC Headquarters serves as a powerful reminder that visible symbols of support can make a profound difference in the lives of marginalized individuals, bringing society closer to true inclusivity and equality.