By Valerie Posthumus
The Haldimand Press
DUNNVILLE—Imagine grabbing your morning coffee and heading out to sit on your front porch – only to find that someone had trespassed on your property and stolen a PRIDE flag you had hanging outside. That is what happened to Dick and Lisa Passmore on August 5, 2020. The couple are proud supporters of the LGBTQ2+ community, with the two being founding members of the Haldimand PRIDE in Dunnville.
“For our community members here, having this flag up, it’s a positive for everybody. And it’s a message of love and acceptance in the flag – community and unity – and there’s no negative you can associate with it,” said Dick. “It’s the people who are most in favour of personal rights and all that who are most against having the flag up here it seems. I don’t really get that. It started out as a passive act of support and now it’s an active expression of our commitment to this community. We are going to support our community no matter what through this. What we are doing here is to support those who are marginalized.”
Dunnville’s annual PRIDE event has garnered much community support in the past but has also been subject to hate and harassment by those who do not support the LGBTQ2+ community. Protestors have come from far and wide but do include a small contingent of Dunnville residents. The Passmores believe that one or more of these people are likely responsible for their flag’s disappearance. They first hung the flag in support of PRIDE month and felt compelled to leave it up indefinitely as a consistent reminder of their support.
Dick posted about this experience on his Facebook page stating, “You may disagree with our views, but NO ONE has the right to do this! I’d like the person responsible to have the guts to contact me and explain what rights you think you have that allow this behavior.”
The community response has been very positive. Messages of support flooded his page and the couple has received four new PRIDE flags. A message of support that stands out to Lisa read, “Thank you for hanging the PRIDE flag. It makes my heart soar when I walk by and see it.”
She added that another said “he and his husband drive by there and love seeing the flag out because they feel part of the community when they see that. This is the positivity that it’s getting so we just decided to keep it up.”
Lisa continued, “During COVID, it’s difficult to have that community, any community connection, so to me it’s important at this time to show support as well.”
Upon receiving an anonymous package with three new flags, Dick posted on his Facebook page, “Thank you anonymous, beautiful person! Love wins again!”
While those who disagree with the flags have yet to steal one a second time, they have instead switched to sending anonymous messages. On Tuesday, August 18 an unknown person trespassed on the family’s porch once again. This time they taped a note to the wall outside the main door.
Dick explained, “There was this sign taped above our mailbox with lots of clear packing tape. It wasn’t a note in the mailbox. There is xenophobic language in there, and they attempted to make it look like an outsider in our community. The note misspelled Quran, which I see to be the attempt to race-bait.”
Lisa added, “It’s a hate message for two groups because it is not only against the LGBTQ2+ community but is also trying to promote hate against Muslims. It’s really unfortunate.”
The couple immediately called the OPP to file reports of these incidents. While they are investigating, the OPP referred the Passmores to some additional resources.
“I don’t think it’s personal; I think it’s the pride flag and what it stands for,” Dick said about the incidents. “We face it every year there (at Dunnville PRIDE) and this is just another extension of it.”
When asked if he still feels safe, Dick responded, “Personally, I see the note as an escalation. I don’t know if there’s anything that’s going to happen. I personally don’t feel unsafe. I’m just concerned for what happens next and what happens if it’s not an ally in the community like us (who is targeted) but one of our more vulnerable community members.”
Lisa added, “We’re in a better position to deal with this than some of the other people. I am glad that it was us and not somebody who has had a history of (harassment) because we are in a better position to manage that stress.”
The Passmores have no intention of letting these incidents
stop their public displays of support. Dick said, “This definitely doesn’t stop us from doing what we are doing. We have faced hate before, and it hasn’t stopped us yet…. We are all part of this community and we are just showing support for another facet of our community that doesn’t get the acceptance and the support that they should.”
The Passmores are very community oriented, having been advocates and volunteers in community groups too numerous to list and as varied as volunteer firefighting to helping with the Santa Claus parade. They chuckle and add, “We are serial volunteers.”
“We would like to thank the community for the support that they’ve shown after this incident and just letting everybody know it is one person in an entire community…. Our community of Dunnville has been very, very supportive and empathetic. We encourage people to stand up and show their support – fly a flag!” said Dick.
Both concluded, “The big message is that love wins!”