I Fly Pride Flags for Myself, but They’ve Had a Surprisingly Beautiful Impact on My Neighbors

published Mar 31, 2024
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illustration of five houses in a community flying different LGBTQ+ flags with a parent and child in the center looking up at the inclusive pride flag
Credit: Ash + Chess

I’m known as the festive neighbor: I put out inflatable dinosaurs with bunny ears for Easter, a pumpkin-lined porch and ghosts in the trees at Halloween, and half-a-dozen inflatables crowding my yard for Christmas. And ever since my ex-partner and I first bought the house I live in, there is a rainbow flag out front, all the time. I’m someone whose queerness is always visible, and I want my home to be the same. 

But during June, one year-round rainbow flag just isn’t enough. I have a large plastic dinosaur that lives on my front porch, and I dress it for different holidays throughout the year. Last Pride Month, I placed a small bouquet of various pride flags in the dinosaur’s mouth: trans pride, nonbinary pride, asexual pride, and leather pride among them. 

One day, I was out getting the mail when my next-door neighbor flagged me down. He walked across his yard and into mine, passing my pride decor. I assumed he had some neighborhood gossip or tidbit about getting his trees trimmed to share. 

Instead, he said: “I just wanted to tell you how much all your pride flags mean to us, to me.” 

He quickly followed by telling me that his teenager had just come out as transgender. He stumbled over pronouns, apologized, and then explained that my flags helped his kid to feel safer and more comfortable visiting their dad’s house every other weekend. I was shocked. I knew that my rainbow flag had inspired conversations among families in the neighborhood as they walked by, but I had no idea that my pride decor was helping at least one young trans person feel safer on my little street.

Credit: Michael Moloney/Shutterstock.com

I came out at 17, when I was kicked out of my home and became part of the epidemic of LGBTQ+ youth homelessness in the United States. It’s estimated that up to 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+, and LGBTQ+ people have a 120% higher risk of experiencing homelessness compared to heterosexual/cisgender people. 

From the day I came out, I jumped into community organizing. I managed a drop-in center for homeless LGBTQ+ youth in New York City for many years; amplified queer voices by editing Kicked Out, a collection of stories from current and former homeless LGBTQ+ youth; and wrote my novel, Lost Boi, which was a 2015 Lambda Literary Award finalist for Transgender Fiction. For me, raising trans voices isn’t isolated to Transgender Day of Visibility — it’s a commitment I bring into my life, work, and home every day.

Queer visibility is now more important than ever. The ACLU is currently tracking 479 anti-LGBTQ+ bills across the United States, many of which use transphobic rhetoric to censor school curricula, limit access to gender-affirming healthcare, place restrictions on drag shows, and other legislative attempts to limit or remove transgender and nonbinary people from public life. Last month’s tragic death of 16-year-old nonbinary teen Nex Benedict in Oklahoma is the latest news that reminds me how violent transphobic legislation and media can embolden people to act violently against our community. 

Credit: Svet foto/Shutterstock.com

This winter, my original flagpole snapped in an ice storm, and my rainbow flag had to be cut out of the frozen gutter. When I ordered a new pole and attached it to the porch, I took it as an excuse to upgrade my traditional rainbow flag to the newer progressive pride flag, which includes black and brown stripes to honor the role that LGBTQ+ people of color played in the creation of the modern LGBTQ+ community and fight for equality. 

Although my neighbor and his family have since moved, I’ll always remember how much my visibility had a profound impact on a dad who just wanted to understand his child better, and how it made my neighborhood feel a little more welcoming to young trans/nonbinary people just coming out. 

Having been involved in queer activism for over 20 years, I can sometimes feel cynical about the importance of small things I’m doing to increase visibility. Hanging a pride flag isn’t going to change the world or prevent nonbinary kids from facing violence in schools, but it does send a message to your neighborhood that transphobia and homophobia are not welcome in your community. You just never know who might feel safer because of that flag you put up.