London

Community responds with kindness and support after Pride flag ripped from London home

A London, Ont., family says it's gotten an outpouring of community support rainbow flag was torn from their home and vandalized. 

This has encouraged us to speak even louder, says Sharla Thompson

Michael and Sharla Thompson holding their new progressive Pride flag. (Submitted by Sharla Thompson)

A London, Ont., family says it's gotten an outpouring of support from the community after a Pride flag was torn from their home and burned last week. 

Sharla Thompson and her family say they've received kind messages in the form of letters, care packages, and stories of consistent allyship. 

The Thompsons have been showcasing the flag since June to support their 16-year-old son who is transgender. They say they were shocked to find themselves as targets of a hate-motivated act. 

On Jan.5, the Thompson family discovered someone stole their Pride flag and burned it. (Submitted)

"For queer kids to see such a beautiful visual representation themselves destroyed in such a hateful way is really demoralizing," she said. "It reminds them that there's still hate out there."

However, Thompson says this incident will not bring down her family's spirits. Instead, she says, the support makes her kids feel like they aren't alone in their fight for representation. 

"It was a bit traumatic for my son, but my kids see how important it is to not back down, and this has encouraged them to speak up for who they are and what matters to them," she said. 

The importance of community allyship

The Thompsons believe visual representation is vital for LGBTQ+ youth, and they've heard from both the queer community and allies about what the flag means to them.

"It's a lot more important to stand strong and show our love and support for our kids," she said. 

These are few of the many letters of support and care packages the Thompson family received from their community. (Submitted)

Amanda Pearson, former vice-president at Pride London Festival, says that community allyship should be active, and can make a huge difference in the lives of transgender youth. 

"You're already on guard all the time because there's people who won't accept you because of the transgender label, so when an incident happens, it further breaks down your defences," said Pearson.

"As this happens, the younger transgender people are convinced that they live in a society that hates them, and they tend to self isolate, which can lead to some dark phenomenon." 

According to Pearson, suicide rates are higher among transgender youth, so it's crucial for allies to have conversations prioritizing their mental well-being.   

London always comes together, says deputy mayor

Deputy Mayor and Ward 7 Coun. Josh Morgan says full and unconditional acceptance of everyone in a community should be the absolute minimum, and that he's very proud to see this support. 

"London has always shown that when acts of hate and intolerance happen in our community, there's a strong majority that steps up and reaches out with love and support," he said. 

While London Police continues to investigate the incident, Thompson and her family plan to get a new flagpole so they can hang the flag high outside their home again.

"One act of hate has turned into dozens of acts of love and support," she said. "There's a lot of hate out there, but there's even more love that will overcome it every single time."

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