Jon Mays with beard

It was good to see that the San Mateo Union High School District will take a revote of its decision to not fly the pride flag during the month of June, Pride Month.

What seemed to be a noncontroversial consent item (or one typically passed without discussion) turned into a 2-2 vote that failed when two trustees, Robert Griffin and Peter Hanley, took issue for a variety of reasons like precedent, but my sense is that the main issue was they didn’t understand the meaning of it and this area’s growing to essentially universal acceptance of and support for the LGBTQ community.

June is Pride Month, and flying the flag shows the district is on the side of the LGBTQ community. For many young people in that community, either overtly or covertly, that has meaning. It also shows this issue, and our community, is evolving but that the transition is not always smooth or easy.

Consider the evolution of the support of same-sex marriage. At one time, it was considered political suicide to support it. Even former President Barack Obama said he believed marriage should be between a man and a woman in 2008 before saying in 2012 he was in support of same-sex marriage. In 2004, only one state, Massachusetts, allowed it and then San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom caused a huge stir when he allowed same-sex marriages for two months in 2004. This county also saw its own activism as a same-sex couple Ramona and Arzu Gatto sought to be married here after tying the knot in San Francisco. That multiyear battle saw victories in a handful of elected officials, and eventually a majority of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, publicly agreeing with their rights to marriage even as they were not allowed to hold an official ceremony here.

California first allowed same-sex marriages in 2008 but later in the year, the state’s voters narrowly passed Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. The passage of Proposition 8 indicated that the state was still split but it was later overturned in court, and same-sex marriages resumed in 2013. Before Proposition 8, California and Massachusetts were the only two states to allow same-sex marriage.

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially legalized same-sex marriage in the United States — a huge step, but not that long ago.

Worldwide, while the first nation to legalize it was the Netherlands in 2001, same-sex marriage is legal in only 29 of the world’s 195 countries. There has been significant progress in the last 20 years, but there is still more to be done. The allowance and acceptance of same-sex marriage is critical, but it is but one issue in the larger acceptance and support of the LGBTQ community.

That acceptance and support has steadily grown, along with greater awareness of the trans community. The emerging progress pride flag with the sideways chevron of the pink and blue trans colors and the black and brown stripe show further inclusivity.

Part of the progress we as a society have made is local governmental agencies showing support for the LGBTQ community in various ways. A high school district is an exemplar of that support as the age of its students is often when identity is forged or solidified. Showing support is just that, support. And while it can be seen as performative, it can also mean the world to someone facing insecurity. Flying the pride flag in June could simply show the school district is on that one student’s side.

The argument that it could lead to other requests like flying a Confederate flag or a 49ers flag is looking beyond the current issue. The request is just for this one, and that is the decision that should be taken into consideration. And put simply, flying the pride flag in June during Pride Month in San Mateo County is not alternative, or different. It is now mainstream, the same as those for whom the flag has meaning.

Progress takes evolution, and not everyone is ready to make the jump at the same time. This could be a teaching moment in which students, parents and people in our community can speak out about why this is important to them and others. This is how we can carry others along, and how true progress is made.

Besides, Pride Month is just around the corner. It is a reason to celebrate, a reason for joy and love and inclusion. So let’s fly a flag!

***

This weekend is Memorial Day, when we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. This is also a good time to fly a flag, the American flag, in their honor.

Jon Mays is the editor in chief of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jon@smdailyjournal.com. Follow Jon on Twitter @jonmays.

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(11) comments

tbeat

Well done! When it comes to inclusion and exclusion, visibility plays a huge part in creating safe spaces for people who have historically been marginalized. This is most important for LGBTQ youth who suffer from greater rates of depression and suicidal ideation.

Eaadams

Well said editor.

craigwiesner

Thank you for writing this! As someone who has worked for LGBTQQIA+ rights for over 30 years I have seen the harm that comes when people are marginalized, and worse, physically harmed for who they are and whom they love. Seeing the rainbow flag or progress flag flying over a city hall, a school, a library, a town square, a park, sends an important message that the community and its leaders want LGBTQQIA+ people to feel safe, welcome, and valued.

Dirk van Ulden

Craig - why do you need a flag to make you feel welcome? Clearly, you must have felt at ease before the flag was even invented, what gives? And why does the L*********A+ need its own flag anyway?

craigwiesner

No Dirk. As a kid I was beaten up a number of times, including being hit in the back of my head with a brick because other kids thought I was gay. I lived through a horrible witch hunt in the military after someone in our unit came out as gay and the commander wanted to ferret out the rest of us. I had to leave a fantastic military career because just "being" gay was against the law. My husband was attacked for being out and becoming a leader within his denomination, with threatening letters and phone calls our daily bread for nearly a year. We sat through years of debate and votes on whether or not we were "worthy" of being included. We were kicked out of one of our parents' homes at Thanksgiving, with no communication for nearly three years with that parent. We were denied services at an airport and treated like dirt trying to check into hotels and rent cars.

Why do we need a flag? First, I want to see a day when no one is beaten up, discriminated against, even killed for how they represent their gender or whom they love. The Progress flag represents the incredibly beautiful diversity of gender, orientation, and all the colors of the rainbow of humanity. Music, art, food, flags, stories, movies, plays, novels, memoirs, murals..... these are all ways we represent, celebrate, mourn, laugh, cry, and learn about and from each other. FACT: Over 70% of young people who are LGBTQQIA+ do NOT feel welcome in their communities and schools and far too many consider and attempt suicide each year. We have to do everything in our power to change those numbers. So.... My question to you would be this: Why does anyone who isn't LGBTQQIA+ care if a city or school flies the rainbow or progress flag?

wlydecker

It will be interesting to see if other groups ask to fly a flag and if the news coverage will be the same. Won't know till it happens, but I'm willing to bet no flag with a cross or star of David on it would be allowed. Hope the Boy Scouts try to run their flag up the flagpole and see who salutes it.

craigwiesner

The good news is that government entities and organizations now have policies in place to help them decide how to respond to requests about flags. Every city and town in San Mateo County will be issuing Pride Month proclamations or raising flags in June, plus some libraries, the County, and even the County Fair! This was made possible by a group of people who put together a comprehensive set of resources that accompanied our "ask" to recognize Pride month. We reached out via email, phone, and showed up at meetings (mostly via Zoom) to make the case for why this was an important and valuable thing to do. Where we met resistance we worked to understand it, truly hear what was being said, and with kindness and persistence to overcome stumbling blocks (and succeeded).

Tafhdyd

Mr. Wiesner,

I have a relatively limited knowledge of the conditions you speak of but I want to add my two cents worth of support.

Over the years the LBGT people I have met, known or worked with have been in the upper tier of humanity. They are friendly, helpful, caring and all around top notch. As friends I put them at the top of the list. Willing to help whenever possible as any true friend would. Many other “friends” seem to drop the ball when the going gets tough. Keep your flag flying with pride as I know you will.

Tafhdyd

Mr. Wiesner,

This is an update to my comment. It was a surprise to me, but I am sure it is not to you, but when I submitted my previous comment it was denied due to profanity. It turns out that the actual words for L and G are considered profanity by the DJ censor program when spelled out.

Terence Y

Sure, let’s hang the flag, as long as we give the same consideration to other groups who want to hang a flag. And not due to a group who yells louder than other groups, or a group willing to bring bullying to greater heights than others. BTW, it’s always a great time to fly the American flag, for what she represents and to always thank those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Laurie

Jon, Thanks for this column. It will open a few eyes.

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