Live and let live

As I sat in the waiting room at my doctor’s office last week, a man entered who appeared to be intoxicated. Within seconds, he started spouting off to complete strangers about “the gays” and how he personally felt slighted that straight people didn’t have their own “flag.”

I just rolled my eyes, ignored him and moved on with my day. But then I heard about the petition – signed by 900 residents presumably not inebriated – presented to Minto council calling for “neutral” public spaces.

The petition is vaguely worded and does not specifically mention Pride banners or rainbow crosswalks. I suspect this was done purposely to garner more signatures of support. In fact, several people have come forward to say they were duped into signing a document they were told was about “safety.”

Clearly, support for the petition has been exaggerated by its proponents – by how much we may never know. 

“This has nothing to do with hate or discrimination – this is about rights,” one petition organizer told Minto council. 

Then why deceive people? And how can a crosswalk or a banner possibly infringe on anyone’s rights? It’s nonsense. Also, just because someone doesn’t think their own actions are hateful or discriminatory, doesn’t mean that won’t be the end result for others.

A sudden, unquenchable desire for “neutral” spaces is surely not the true impetus for this petition.

As the editor of two newspapers covering Wellington County, I know that every June I’ll receive calls and emails objecting to the raising of Pride flags at schools or other public properties. The complaints always start out with concerns about flag etiquette, fairness or “neutrality,” but if I keep them talking long enough the complainants always reveal their true feelings about the Pride flag and the community it represents. 

One man emailed me in 2020 to cancel delivery of his newspaper due to all the coverage we were giving Black Lives Matter protests and 2SLGBTQIA+ events (of course  that’s not how he described either topic). His email actually concluded with this revealing and supposedly rhetorical question: “Why can’t we just go back to the way things were?”

Whether they admit it or not, I suspect the people who organized the Minto petition, and many who signed it, may share that same sentiment.

I don’t get it. Not once in my entire life, even as a dumb kid, have I been upset about the raising of rainbow flags. Like every other straight person, I’ve never been subjected to hate, discrimination and bullying (or worse) because of my sexuality. That’s the difference.

Ironically, the only thing proven by petitions like the one presented to Minto council last week is that Pride flags and events are necessary – vital even – for the foreseeable future.