With National Coming Out Day having just passed, this is a rather opportune time for me to post this. All day yesterday there was a whirlwind of love and support for the LGBTQ community. I saw posts about coming out stories, and posts where people actually came out of the closet. Unfortunately not everyone has such a positive outlook.
Today I listened to a conversation between two of my coworkers and it made me grind my teeth. It was sort of a one sided conversation, with the first girl expressing her opinions, and the other girl generally agreeing. It started with discussion of Caitlyn Jenner, only they used the wrong name and pronouns. They continued on to talk about New York’s signing of a bill to allow parents not to include gender on birth certificates. New York isn’t the only state though. Oregon, California, New Jersey and Washington state also allow freedom of gender expression. My two coworkers explicitly spouted their disapproval of this. Then the first girl began denigrating people who have the rainbow flag.
What’s wrong with having a rainbow flag?” I wondered. Her answer was roughly as follows: “They just want attention! Why do I need to know who you’re having sex with?I don’t care who people have sex with. People can do whatever they want, I don’t judge. But why do they need to announce it to the world?”
There was so much I had wanted to say. Firstly, I wanted to let her know she was being offensive. I didn’t think that would go over well because I’m fairly certain shes’s the kind of person who complains that people are too sensitive and easily offended now-a-days. It doesn’t help me that I’m not very confrontational and I have trouble expressing my feelings to people.
Secondly, I wanted her to know that being gay isn’t just about who you sleep with, it’s also about who you love. There’s A LOT of people out there trying to tell people who they should and shouldn’t love, even though it isn’t a decision.
Thirdly, for someone who claims not to judge, she sounded awfully judgmental, if you ask me…
The fourth point I wanted to make, and the most important, was that owning a rainbow flag isn’t announcing to the world who you sleep with. It is announcing that you are a part of OR SUPPORT the LGBTQ community. Someone might just have one because they are an ally.
This coworker of mine explained that she had two daughters who are gay. I would compare this to when someone who is being racist say’s “I’m not racist, I have black friends!” There’s no denying what she was doing, she was spewing hatred. She may think she’s an ally but she doesn’t see the meaning behind the rainbow flag. She doesn’t realize that it shows you care, that you respect and support LGBTQ’s.
It’s also making a statement. The flag shouts “I am who I am! I am not ashamed!I am valid!” This is something that needs to be yelled over all the voices that malign people who are gay, bi, trans, queer, or non-binary. It’s important in the fight against bullying and discrimination to be loud and clear. Let us not forget about the ones who have been driven to suicide from being relentlessly bullied because of how they identify, or the ones who have been victims of hate crimes, or violence. Let us not forget the heinous acts of the Westboro Baptist Church.
My coworker was wildly mistaken. The flag is not a declaration of your sex life, it goes much deeper than that. We live in a world riddled with hatred. When someone waves a rainbow flag, it represents love, just like when someone waves the American flag it represents love for United States. A huge part of pride is about being free to love who you love, and not being ashamed, despite what some may say.
I regret not having spoken up at the time and hope to have the courage if I ever hear her utter similar words again.