Flashback: The year is 1989 and—oh, wait, no. I misread something. Let’s try this again.
August, 2007: The town council of Truro, Nova Scotia (population 11,700) has voted 6-1 against raising a Pride flag at city hall during the city’s gay pride week. The mayor, Bill Mills, decides to let his words speak louder than actions:
If I have a group of people that says pedophiles should have rights, do we raise their flag too? I don’t want to lump them in with homosexuals, but that’s the point—the issues—and that’s my feeling.
Gays and lesbians already have equal opportunities and work and pension benefits; I wonder what else they’re fighting for.
So, what else are gay people fighting for? Freedom from being publicly compared to pedophiles by ignorant mayors is a good start. I am not a criminal.
You see, the folks running Truro are unusually slow at understanding the Pride flag. Bill Mills considers it a display of arrogance—a means to “flaunt a lifestyle” to those who don’t care to see it. He’s the type of person who emails me now and then to ask why gays are so insistent on visibility when there isn’t a straight pride flag or straight pride parade.
My take is simple: Pride flags exists because pride is the opposite of shame, which is precisely how people like Mills would have us gays feel. The “lifestyle” I’m supposedly flaunting is, in reality, no different from anyone else’s, but there’s a lot I’ve had to put up with. Pride is a fitting symbol: I am proud of having overcome the misinformation I was fed over the years about gay people; I’m proud of overcoming the personal struggle to accept who I am; and I’m especially proud of how I continue to overcome ignorant policy-makers, lobbyists, journalists, individuals, and churches who don’t hesitate to attack me at every opportunity.
Raising the Pride flag is not an “endorsement” of any particular lifestyle—and certainly not the lifestyle that Mayor Mills has chosen to assign to all of a diverse group. Rather, it’s a gesture of dignity and recognition of a minority’s struggle that, if refused in this manner, re-enforces the purpose of why that symbol exists. Mayor Mills may not care to see the Pride flag one week a year, but I have to put up with discriminatory nonsense all the time.
Incidentally, municipal proclamations such as flag raising are generally considered a public service of city hall.
A tip o’ the hat to Devin Maxwell, who grew up in Truro.
- N.S. town council votes against raising pride flag [CTV News]
- Truro in gay flag flap [CBC News]
- Truro mayor: It’s not OK to be gay [Chronicle Herald]