Pride in Our Flag

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Pride in Our Flag

Gray Bradstock at the LIYLS ceremony.

Gray Bradstock at the LIYLS ceremony.

DHS Press Staff

Gray Bradstock at the LIYLS ceremony.

DHS Press Staff

DHS Press Staff

Gray Bradstock at the LIYLS ceremony.

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The quiet laughs were expected. The whispers and stares were anticipated. The statements from Dominion High School after the pride flag was carried at the LIYLS flag ceremony were hurtful, shameful, and indefensible.

About a week after the multicultural assembly, we were told by ceremony coordinator Mrs. Nuñez that the pride flag was not going to be allowed back to the parade pending further clarification on LCPS policies pertaining to symbols that can be represented. We asked Dr. Brewer for clarification on this stance, and he told us that the flag ceremony was strictly multinational, not multicultural, and only flags that are internationally recognized as countries should be present. Since the pride flag does not represent a nation, its presence doesn’t line up with the values of the assembly. When we asked if the guidelines could be adjusted to allow the pride flag, Dr. Brewer cautioned us that a definition which includes an identity-based group like the LGBT+ community could also open up symbols like the Confederate flag to insist representation as well. Since Dominion and LCPS would need to be careful not to exclude any groups that are technically allowed at the assembly, Dr. Brewer said we would need to be careful about the possibility that groups who support the Confederate flag may try to take advantage of the pride flag’s representation.

These concerns about the definition of multinational completely ignore statements made to us by the organizers of the LIYLS assembly who not only requested the pride flag at the ceremony, but also said they would welcome it back at future parades. But if we’re being honest, this is not an issue about the difference between culture and nation– it’s about people not wanting to see the pride flag at all.

Saying that the LGBT+ flag will encourage other ideological groups to join isn’t just hurtful, it’s incorrect. The argument that the pride flag represents just another political advocacy group and not an identity someone is born with and cannot change is homophobic by definition. It tells students that being gay is a choice and that choice can and should be changed.

The main difference between the LGBT+ community and any ideology ranging from the Young Democrats to a white supremacy movement is just that–they are ideologies. One is not born a Republican or a Confederate or a follower of any other political movement; one chooses to adopt those ideologies which are flexible and can shift over time. The Confederate flag, which Dr. Brewer brought up as a potential conflict to allowing the pride flag, likely does not represent most of Dominion’s students despite the fact that we live in Virginia, a former Confederate state. People choose not to align themselves with the Confederate flag because it’s not an innate identity. Queer people, on the other hand, are born queer. LGBT+ people all over the globe feel pride in their identity because they feel safe enough to embrace who they are in a world that does not, and when that is reflected in a school setting, it sends a message that no matter what happens outside these walls, you are welcome here.

While we like to think that bullying is a thing of the past, LGBT+ youth around the world are constantly discriminated against in and out of schools. Negative comments based on sexual orientation increased in Dominion’s very halls after the pride flag was seen in the multicultural assembly, and we’re not the only ones in the area who seek an end to LGBT+ student bullying. After the LCPS school board narrowly banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in a controversial 5-4 vote, the least Dominion could do is show school-wide and global solidarity with queer youth at a ceremony all about acceptance and diversity across cultures.

Our goal is not to spark outrage but to help clear up any miscommunications within the walls of this school. These views usually come from ignorance that has never been addressed, so by debunking those misguided beliefs, we can start the first step toward acceptance. The second step is school-wide action among both students and staff. A clear, written definition of what is and is not welcome at the LIYLS assembly is necessary to dispel concerns and consider other groups that may benefit from representation in the parade, but we cannot ignore that the shameful statements made by students and staff go beyond a colorful piece of cloth in a five minute ceremony.

In the years to come, we must continue to call out ignorance when we see it and firmly fight for the side of acceptance and inclusivity for those who may not have the chance to experience that outside of school. Leading a life of significance doesn’t just mean self improvement; it means making life significant everyone, no matter who they are.

Alison Thimmesch is a senior at Dominion High School. She organized last year’s Titans Walk Out demonstration against gun violence.

Grayson Bradstock is a senior at Dominion High School. He is the president of Dominion’s Gay-Straight Alliance.

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