Montague café owner asks Three Rivers to fly more Pride flags
‘It just shows that we are a community that accepts everyone’
The owner of the Lucky Bean Cafe in Montague is speaking to his local council about the importance of flying the Pride flag, after an incident with a passerby gave him pause.
Matt Clendinning has always flown the rainbow flag outside his café, and recently took down the flag he had up all winter, which was looking worn, to put up a new one.
During the time the flag was down, someone walking by stopped him outside and congratulated him.
"They're like, 'Yeah, you finally took down the, you know, gay flag,' and I was … taken aback a little bit, I was like, 'I'm sorry?' Just not expecting that whatsoever," said Clendinning.
"They mentioned that they didn't support my establishment because I had the flag up," he said.
Clendinning said he tried to stay calm, while in disbelief that the person was speaking this way to him.
"I told him that I felt that that mentality did not belong in our community," said Clendinning.
The brief encounter stayed with him, he said.
"I was like, man, like, how is that still here? It's 2021," he said.
The raising of the flag would simply allow these people to feel comfortable, to feel accepted and protected by the town if anything were to happen.— John MacCormac
He kept thinking about it, and then decided to take action.
Monday night, Clendinning is making a presentation to the Three Rivers Council, asking them to fly the Pride flag at municipal buildings in the community, and to add rainbow crosswalks in the area.
"I think it just shows that we are a community that accepts everyone and not just certain members of the community. We don't pick and choose," he said.
For Montague native John MacCormac, a friend of Clendinning, the flying of the Pride flag in his community is a big deal.
"When I'm walking to work, I see the Pride flag [at the café] every day and it means a lot that it can be sort of a beacon of safety and comfort," said MacCormac, who identifies as a cis gay male is a two-spirit LGBTQ+ advocate and works with a local queer youth group.
"I can know that if I go into that business and something happened, someone said something, that I would be protected, I would be supported by that business," he said.
MacCormac came out when he was 13, and said he never dreamed his hometown would become as accepting as it is today.
"This is not a new thing that gay people live in the area, that gay people have grown up here, that queer people come to live here," he said.
"The raising of the flag would simply allow these people to feel comfortable, to feel accepted and again, protected by the town if anything were to happen."
'An ally is doing some of the work'
MacCormac said he's impressed with Clendinning's willingness to go to the Three Rivers council about this issue.
"I said, 'That's bold of you and I appreciate that you're doing that, that an ally is doing some of the work and not leaving it on the marginalized groups to do all of the work that needs to be done around it.'"
In 2016, the town of Montague was in the news for not raising a Pride flag during the Pride Festival.
Since the amalgamation of communities in the area, officials say the Pride flag has been raised at the municipal building in Cardigan.
Café owner will give out Pride flags for free
Clendinning would also like to see more businesses in the Three Rivers area flying the Pride flag.
"Personally, I'm going to be sourcing a large quantity of flags myself. And if, you know, if the reasoning is financial difficulties during this time, then I'll take that reason away and give you one for free."
Regardless of what happens at the council meeting, Clendinning will continue to fly the Pride flag at the Lucky Bean.
"We want to make sure that people of the LGBTQ community know that, you know, we're safe for them at any time and that it's a safe community hub for everyone," he said.
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With files from John Robertson