Pride flags torn, bent, burned during Pride Month in Rochester

Monroe County

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — June is Pride month, but not all families in the community feel supported. Recently, LGBTQ families across the Rochester area have had their Pride flags stolen, torn, and even burned.

Amanda O’Hearn, a mother in the Highland Park area, says she came home to her Pride flag torn in half last weekend. “We have a little rainbow flag out in the backyard that got ripped in half and then the neighbors saw the kids walk to friends of ours house and bend their flag pole that also had a rainbow,” O’Hearn said. 

Another neighbor in the Highland Park area said the teens yelled anti-gay slurs at him and then threw rocks at his fence.

“I am sad that it was kids, because—you know, for them to learn this stuff, it has to be from other kids or from families. So it just made me sad that that message is still there, that there is anti-gay sentiment out there, especially coming from young people,” O’Hearn said. “I don’t know what the kids intended. I don’t think they understand, probably, the depths that that fear can go sometimes, when you’re in a community that has faced discrimination for just being who you are.”

Highland Park isn’t the only area that has been impacted by these acts. People in the 19th Ward say in the past few months, many Pride flags have been stolen, and one was even burned and left on someone’s lawn.

While O’Hearn admits things have come a long way and are much better for the LGBTQ community, she says there is still more to be done. “We’re not at a place where this can just be Pride month, where we just say, ‘Oh look what used to happen,'” she said. “There’s still discrimination, whether it’s the outward name-calling our neighbors talk about experiencing or it’s the more subtle things of not getting promoted or not getting the same opportunities that straight communities have.

O’Hearn said a big place to start is by having conversations. “Once you start with conversations, you’re able to actually look face-to-face with a person from another community you either don’t like, or you don’t understand or don’t agree with,” she said. “That’s where change can happen.”

She said it’s especially important parents are having conversations about inclusivity with their kids. “How are we talking to our kids about things like anti-racism and communities that we might not be apart of? I would hope that parents, especially with this month being Pride Month, would think about at least bringing up the topic that there are other families that are made up of people that are different than us,” O’Hearn said. 

The Rochester mother says she feels relatively safe in her neighborhood, and when she put out a post on Facebook about what happened, she had a lot of support from others. “That’s been super nice, to see how many people have come out and said, ‘We support you. We don’t know you but we are 100% behind you. And we’re straight, but we are putting out a rainbow flag this month,’” she said. “So that’s been really, really lovely.”

While Pride month is celebrated nationally in June, celebrations in Rochester typically take place in July. 

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