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- Matthew Baker

I was born and raised in this tight knit rural community. When I moved to the city to attend university I found myself in many conversations clarifying and disproving harmful stereotypes about my home town, and others like them. I am proud to live in Grey County and even more proud of the steps we have taken to be more inclusive, educated, and grow as a community in recent years.

That is why I was shocked,enraged, and genuinely disappointed and heartbroken over something that happened at a West Grey Council meeting earlier this month, July of 2020. Someone within the community wanted to fly a "straight pride" flag on a government building  because they had flown a Pride rainbow flag the month before.

I am not concerned with the citizen who brought it forward. I am however deeply concerned that even though it was voted down 4-2, there were still two votes in favour. Two councillors who used harmful rhetoric and misinformation to justify flying it. I am not going to get bogged down in what was said because it doesn’t merit that sort of attention.

I would like to address the fact that unlike the Pride flag and movement, which is based in love and support, the straight pride movement is not grown from the need to be heard or represented as a straight person, because of course you already are. All media platforms, television, film, art, sports, government policies represent and reinforce that you’re normal and the overwhelming majority. Therefore, it is and always has been about oppressing and intimidating the Pride movement. What does it say to any citizen who identifies under the Pride flag that an elected government representative would support flying a straight pride flag then? A message of support and safety within their own community? Not likely.

The straight pride movement, much like All Lives Matter, doesn’t exist independently. These groups were created as a direct opposition to those who are standing up against oppression of minorities.

One council person expressed concern that by not flying the straight pride flag, they would be discriminating against their straight constituents. Such a statement shows a deep misunderstanding of what privilege is, and what it means to be the majority. The majority cannot be marginalized. Do you remember the absolute terror you had on the day you came out to your loved ones as straight? The fear that you’d be disowned by your family, friends, and community for being straight? Losing absolutely everything just so that you can stop hiding and finally be yourself? Do you remember that day? Ya, me either because we didn’t have to.

That is what Privilege is.
Using that privilege to help, love and support others who have been victims of violence and oppression historically does not mean you are losing anything. It simply means you’re giving someone else the feelings of safety, security, and belonging that you have had your entire life.

In our lifetimes we will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the closing of the last concentration camp of the Holocaust. If the Jewish community asked Council to fly a flag to support them and remember the oppression that they have suffered, we would fly that flag and be proud to do so. I seriously doubt that there would then be a demand and subsequent Council consideration to fly a white supremacy flag out of “fairness.”

Our societal and cultural norms are changing faster than maybe ever before and we all need to be patient with each other as we are all travelling this road at different speeds. However, hatred and oppression of others, even if not done with malice and forethought, will no longer be tolerated, and that is the bare minimum we should be shooting for. Especially those voted in to represent all of their constituents. We need to all do better.


 

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