When People Rip Down My Pride Flags
Driving around any neighborhood, I can always see many flags in various people’s yards: the American flag, Trump flags, Black Lives Matter flags, and Pride flags, on occasion. Coming out and transitioning to a more masculine identity in a tiny, rural town filled me with a great deal of anxiety. I felt alone even though I know in my heart that there are other queer people out there in my community; unfortunately, I just don’t know them.
However, when I have driven past homes on my various road trips around Montana, seeing a Pride flag displayed on someone’s porch or in a business window comforts me significantly. When I see a Pride flag, I feel supported. I feel like I can be myself in this place and that I can feel safe. If anything, just knowing that I am not alone is reassuring.
This year, I purchased a rainbow flag and a transgender Pride flag to hang from my porch. Initially, I feared that making my home more visible in my tiny town of 800+ people may bring harassment my way. It didn’t. I then feared that people may tear my flags down or vandalize them. That didn’t happen, either. At least, not at first.
The rainbow flag was ripped down first. My husband, Joe, insisted it was probably the wind, but I suspected someone stole it. I laughed knowing that this person obviously didn’t know what the transgender flag meant since it still flew brazenly. We replaced the flag, and a few months passed before both flags were ripped down and stolen. This trend has continued throughout this year. The flags are stolen, we replace them, and they are stolen again. This has happened at least six times now. This last time, our flags were ripped down just three days after replacing them.
Joe can’t deny it anymore. He knows someone is purposely stealing our flags. We can’t find the flags anywhere. We thought people may rip them down and leave them laying on the ground, but there is no sign of our flags. Joe wants to purchase cameras and expose the person, but Joe’s anger stems from people trespassing and destroying his property. For me, getting my flags ripped down feels more personal.
I have struggled with trying to formulate a “thick skin” to deal with people who may hold prejudices against me for my queer identity; however, I’ve always been sensitive by nature. No one is going to stop me from living my life as I see fit or from being myself; nevertheless, I get hurt easily. Sometimes, I internalize that hurt.
Getting my flags ripped down feels like an attack on me as a person. I think it sends the message that either I am unwelcomed here in my town, or I better hide who I am. I don’t see my flags as shoving my gender identity or sexuality into people’s faces. I see my flags as symbols of my identity and as a symbol for the LGBTQIA+ community to have pride in who we are. For too long, the queer community has been invisible. My flags are a way to say that I don’t want to be invisible anymore. If my neighbors can fly their American flags, Trump flags, and other symbols of their identity, then I can fly flags that represent my identity.
Never have I felt the urge to trespass on someone’s property and rip down a flag just because it is different than my views. The fact that someone is walking into my yard and destroying my property feels aggressive to me. Since the flags are now getting removed faster and faster, I almost feel like this person is watching my house, waiting for my flags to get replaced so that this person can immediately rip them down. I feel very targeted.
Sitting alone in my house last week, I realized that this violation is starting to impact my security. I feel less safe in my home and going out in public in my town. I don’t know who knows this is happening. Does this person brag about it? Does this person take the flags home to brag? If some kids are doing it, are their parents supportive of this behavior? If people feel like they can rip down my flags, will they feel okay doing other things to me?
I know that getting my flags stolen is not as traumatic as some of the other atrocities LGBTQIA+ people experience; however, I also wonder if this is the beginning. I have lived in this town for three years as an openly queer person with no incidents. Now, I feel the urge to catch this person on camera and confront this behavior, but I am scared about the outcome. I struggle between wanting to fight for myself and the desire to just hide to avoid conflict. I fear that my town may turn into a nightmare if residents start harassing me. Thus, while this incident seems small right now, I don’t know where it may go.
I don’t want to be treated differently. I just want to display my flags to honor myself and provide comfort to other people living in my community who are LGBTQIA+. I also feel like I have the right to do whatever I want to with my own property just like others in my neighborhood. This is 2021, and I still can’t believe sometimes that this is where we are as a society.
I don’t have an articulate conclusion for this blog post. I wanted to share my dilemma in which my value system tells me to stand up for myself, but this insecure, fearful part of me says shut up and hide. I try to advocate for others all the time, but advocating for myself is extremely difficult, and I have disappointed myself many times. I don’t want to keep doing it, but honestly, I am scared.