Our rainbow flag that hung outside our church was stolen. Twice, actually. Once it happened during a storm, so it’s possible (unlikely, but possible) that it fell. The second time it had been hung higher, way out of reach. There was no storm. It was removed by force.
Our minister sent out a really nice email about it, assuring us that we’d rehang and rededicate the flag. He mentioned talking to the police about it, which I was less than thrilled about, but all in all I think it was handled well.
The missing flag didn’t really bother me THAT much. It didn’t really have an impact on my life. I get harassed and discriminated and simply misunderstood all the time. I can’t go into a public bathroom without funny looks, and when customers at the coffee shop feel like insulting me “fag” is usually the term that pops up first. I know I automatically won’t get a decent number of jobs simply because I’m trans and I got asked to leave a men’s dressing room the other day and told that I had to walk across the store to the women’s side if I wanted to try on clothes.
Clearly I’d prefer that our flag NOT get stolen but in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t a big deal in my mind. Until the Boston Globe article came out about it.
I idly clicked on it from our Church’s Facebook page, and then I made a mistake and I read the comments.
The comments fell into three categories.
- We deserved it and/or that it didn’t matter
- It was taken as a prank
- A queer person took it because they wanted a flag
Let’s debunk that third statement first. Queer folks know the meaning of the Rainbow flag. We know the importance of places of worship hanging the rainbow flag prominently. And, by and large, we know where to buy a freaking rainbow flag. To me this reasoning is purely demonizing and mocking the queer community. This comment has been “recommended” sixteen times,
“I’m thinking that it is a gay, lesbian or transgender that stole the flag for themselves, just like a Red Sox, Celtics Bruins or Patriots might take take a pennant, if someone were out there flying it so proudly. GEEEEZ..the homosexual community is so paranoid!”
This is a city of students. Somewhere there are 2 GLBT students with a big-a$s souvenir flag hanging on the wall of their dorm room. (recommended 7 times)
As to taking it as a prank? Well, it’s certainly possible. But even if taken as a prank it’s still a prank that either targets the queer community or targets a church that visibly and vocally supports the queer community. One comment to this effect reads,
“Why are so many jumping to conclusions? We don’t know the reason it was stolen. Punk kids stealing for the fun of stealing not caring what it stands for? (A colorful flag attracts more attention.) Someone stealing it because they liked the way it looks?”
That comment has been “recommended” 5 times. Somehow I just don’t buy that our flag was stolen because it’s rainbow and shiny things attract thieves. And the idea that it was pretty so it was taken, without having any knowledge or conception of what it stands for? Really, you live in Boston and you don’t know that the rainblow flag symbolizes LGBTQ people?
It’s the idea that we deserved it, though, that hurts me the most; that our flag should have been stolen because we’re SO different, SO evil, SO deserving of this hatred that we don’t matter. Look at some of those comments.
If an “undocumented welfare recipient” steals a car, a local cop drives home a state senator when he is drunk,or a NAMBLA member is working at a day care center no big deal, but if a rainbow flag is stolen, it is time to put out video cameras, and take DNA samples. Welcome to moonbat central. (recommended 30 times, the most of any comment)
The UU church advocates for illegal immigrants, and some congregations are illegally harboring them. If they’re going to break the law and encourage others to do so, how can they complain about other people breaking the law. (recommended 7 times)
Oh no someone stole the rainbow flag. Professor Gates must be in a tizzy. is he searching the neighborhood on his adult tricycle? (recommended 24 times)
(“It’s unfortunate that we have to respond to the spiteful acts of one or perhaps a handful of people who are themselves caught in the grip of fear and ignorance,” said Senior Minister Fred Small.)
That’s a broad brush reverend. Why wait for a suspect? Why be like Al Sharpton?
There are ample rainbow stickers, pink triangles, other rainbow flags all around to be defaced or stolen. Show me a pattern but otherwise keep your suspicions and accusations to yourself without better evidence, thanks.(recommended 8 times)
I don’t feel like I live that outside the norm of society. Not really. I eat at the same restaurants and shop as the same stores and walk the same streets and ride the same public transportation as the folks writing these comments. But it’s not simply that I don’t believe the things that people write, not that my opinion simply differs. These things legitimately have never crossed my mind. How did it get switched around to being about immigration? Why the racist comments? Why the insistence that it must have been a queer person that did it, or a goofy but well intentioned prankster, or anybody but who it (likely) was?
I know I’m queer and I know I’m more politically active than your average 20-something and I know I’ve probably read a few more books on social movements than is healthy. I know I do purposely seclude myself from some aspects of society by not doing things like watching violent movies, listening to music that doesn’t support my values, and not attending stuff that I might otherwise like to do because I’m supporting a boycott or simply trying not to give certain institutions more money. But doesn’t everyone do that to an extent? People don’t go see things that they don’t like. They don’t listen to things that don’t make them happy. They don’t go places or do things if those places have hurt them or people they care about.
I know that they are just comments on a news site online and therefore I should treat them as more meaningless than scribbles in the margins of a library book. But these comments are said by real people in my real community where I have to live every day. For real. And it both hurts and scares me to think that people feel these things about my faith community and, by proxy, about me.
Being visibly present is really a huge and necessary step. Flying our rainbow flag for the community to see is a really simple way to say, “We love you, we value you, we support you. Come as you are. Welcome.”
I’m thrilled that we’ll be hanging a new flag, higher up, and rededicating it as a congregation next Sunday. I am once again reminded that we aren’t done fighting for queer rights. I should know that; I live that fact every day. Sometimes I don’t want to fight for my right to live as who I am, but then this gives me that jolt that wakes me up and reminds me of my LGBTQ ancestors.
They fought for me so I can start at point H rather than point A. And I have to continue to fight and to live as who I am so that the next generation can start at an even further point on this timeline of acceptance.
“We meet you in joy and love. We see your inherent worth and dignity. Welcome to First Parish.”