When a ‘straight pride’ flag was raised in Chipman last month, it put the small village on the map – for all the wrong reasons.
The action on Oct. 18 sparked outrage on social media, leading to the flag’s removal less than 24 hours later after the incident made national news.
The committee responsible for the flag raising, claimed ignorance of the harmful nature of the symbol, as defence for the backlash received from the local LGBT community.
I believe the lack of knowledge on the topic, and the harm it could cause, was the major fault in raising the flag. The LGBT community has a flag to remind each other of the progress they have made, and the community they have built.
My current understanding of Pride is that it is a celebration of love, of all love, with a particular emphasis on a type of love that has been shamed and banned for far too long. Straight people have not had to overcome the obstacles LGBT people have, as they could already expect all of the rights LGBT communities were fighting for.
A nation earns their flag after a victory in battle or a war for independence. The LGBT community has been fighting for their rights for centuries. They have earned their Pride flag.
Not wanting to speak for a whole community, I reached out to members of Qmunity, a campus group whose purpose is to unite, support and provide visibility to the LGBTQ+ students at UNB.
Grace Taylor, co-president of the organization, told me that raising a straight flag, whether in malice or ignorance, is a problem. She said the rainbow Pride flag is a symbol of the history of the community, and the safety and solidarity LGBT people feel within it.
“The Pride flag isn’t flown because we want it, it’s flown because we need it,” she said. “I want to know I live somewhere where it’s safe for me to hold my partner’s hand in public, or to use my preferred bathroom, or to even tell people who I am.”
Taylor said that the raising of the straight pride flag brought fear to her community.
“This flag is just a symbol to me and my community that it isn’t safe to do these things,” she said.
Ella Wiggins, another Qmunity member, said she feels this action shows ignorance toward the struggles of her community.
“It shows that they don’t understand our history and don’t respect the lives that have been taken from us for the fight of equality,” she said.
A third member of Qmunity, who wished to remain anonymous, reminded me that Pride originated as a protest, not a celebration.
When I asked Alexandra Devitt, vice president admin at Qmunity, for her opinion, she brought the issue home, to the UNB campus.
“UNB’s decision to raise the Pride flag in response to Chipman was encouraging not only for the queer community in Fredericton, but hopefully also for the queer community in Chipman,” she said. “My hopes are that this will be a learning experience that will push New Brunswick in the right direction.”
It is disheartening to see the ignorance and intolerance displayed in Chipman so close to home. But. hopefully this experience can bring us all together, no matter how you identify, and act as a reminder that a person is a person, and that love is love.