(6/27/22) By Sam McClure, Executive Director, The Center for LGBTQ Health Equity
When I saw the news that the Carroll County School Board decided to ban LGBTQ Pride flags from school displays, I was initially angry and sad. However, I drew hope from a local student group whose efforts may show their community a better way forward
In some of the reporting around issues of Pride displays in schools we hear a familiar and dangerous trope. There is often a false assertion that displaying this flag during LGBTQ pride month may be somehow harmful to kids who may not share “those values.”
The Pride flag represents people. The display of the flag allows LGBTQ people to demonstrate that we exist. We’re here, and we are proud to be who we are. Pushing back on the actual existence of people? That is a belief, and a value. It says, “I will not recognize and celebrate people who are not like me.”
Values are a person’s principles or standards of behavior, one’s judgement of what is important in life. Why are some individuals still trying to suggest that being a person who identifies as LGBTQ is right or wrong? We are people. We live and work and contribute to our communities. We have families. We love, we experience failures and successes, we feel pain and loss, joy and happiness, and fear, and occasionally, a sense of safety, and belonging. No one gets to decide if we have a right to exist. We do exist. These students exist.
When these young people hear adults calling LGBTQ people “groomers, pedophiles, and sexual predators,” they are hurt deeply. They know these assertions are untrue and mean. These vile false statements are what is political. This is political framing carefully written to instill fear and hatred in our society and to demonize LGBTQ people.
A representative of Concerned Parents of Carroll County stated, “I think a lot of people want to confuse tolerance with acceptance.”
I do not think these students are confused at all. Diana Flores, who is a student advocate for Carroll County Kids for Equity, clearly states that the Pride flag is a sign of acceptance. Acceptance is what is expected, and it is exactly what these students should feel every day when they walk into their school.
Flores’ group is an independent organization which has been on the front lines of the fight against the Carroll County school board’s policy, organizing rallies, distributing information and resources, and acting as an online hub for those in their community demanding change. From them, I draw immense hope and strength.
This school board’s decision was wrong. The timing was cruel, and it was a direct threat to the emotional wellbeing of students who identify as LGBTQ and the students who identify themselves as allies. The LGBTQ community is processing another anniversary of the Pulse massacre where 49 souls were taken by violence. Earlier this month, a “militia style” group has been stopped and arrested on their way to violently disrupt a Pride festival in Idaho.
These students need to feel safe and included. Banning the Pride flag is a clear attempt at erasure, and these kids know exactly what is happening to them. Banning flags, books, and public discourse in schools will not erase LGBTQ people. This school board needs to take a lesson from the Carroll County Kids for Equity and start teaching civility, equity, inclusion, and acceptance.The Center for LGBTQ Health Equity