Pride flags stolen, vandalized in Dunnville; community continues to show Pride

Pride flags stolen, vandalized in Dunnville; community continues to show Pride
Pat Howard is one of hundreds of Haldimand County residents who have requested a Pride sign to display on their lawns, a clear refutation to recent reports of Pride signs and flags being stolen or vandalized in Dunnville. —Submitted photo.

By Mike Renzella

The Haldimand Press

DUNNVILLE—The OPP is investigating the disappearance of the Pride flag that was on display at Dunnville Secondary School, which occurred around the same time that a number of local residents found their own Pride yard signs missing or vandalized.

Calvin Eady, who uses they/them pronouns, is a Cayuga resident and recently became a member of Pride Haldimand Norfolk.

Nish with kids Addy, 4, Asher, 9, and Jackson, 7, in Cayuga

“I’m non-binary and queer and I’ve been out for several years but I’ve never been involved until now,” said Eady, who was inspired to push Council towards flying a Pride flag for the first time and, after that success, stayed on to help to distribute signs throughout the county. They say they weren’t surprised when they heard about the missing signs: “There’s a lot of hateful people that live in the area. Those people like to make it their mission to ruin other people’s lives.”

One recent incident took place at the home of Dunnville residents Andrea Noelle and her partner Evan. Noelle noticed the sign was missing one day and explained, “It wasn’t until my partner came home at 6 p.m. that he found it at the end of the driveway burned and melted to the road.”

DUNNVILLE—Andrea Noelle shows the melted remains of the Pride sign she was displaying on her front lawn, one of a handful of incidents of Pride signage being stolen or vandalized in the community.
—Photo submitted by Andrea Noelle.

Noelle posted about the destroyed sign on the Facebook group Dunnville Talks, “I got nothing but support. And then the post was gone. Apparently, someone made a snide comment about the fire, but to be honest I didn’t see that comment. I was deleted (removed from the group) before I could read that.”

The Haldimand Press spoke with Brian De Bratcher, one of the admins of Dunnville Talks, for some clarity on what took place with Noelle’s post: “She should not have been removed,” he said, citing the decision was made by one moderator with an “itchy trigger finger” and added, “Andrea is welcome back if she wants.”

“Dunnville Talks seeks to be an accurate representation of our community, warts and all,” said De Bratcher. “We denounce bigoted comments of all sorts. All people should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of opinions or lifestyles.”

Sonya McKeen, Dunnville

Despite the good intentions of De Bratcher, Eady says social media, and the negative comments toward the LGBTQ+ communities of Haldimand County, can have lasting negative impacts.

“Lots of people use (social media) to help identify who is or isn’t queer and help target them that way. I’ve received messages on Facebook from people I’ve never met. When I click on their profile, I see they’re from the area, a friend of a friend of a friend who found me on Facebook and is sending me slurs,” said Eady, adding that on the opposite end of the spectrum, social media has been a powerful tool for uniting the Pride community.

Todd Myers, Dunnville

He continued, “The fact that there are less people out here and we’re not as densely populated makes queer people easier to identify and target and there’s less safety in numbers out here.”

However, despite the adversity from an outspoken minority of the population, the Pride community and its allies continue to battle back. According to Eady, all the signs that have been stolen have been replaced free of charge by Pride HN, using money that they fundraised from the original signs.

A post by Noelle on a separate group, Dunnville Small Town Big Heart, yielded a bevy of outraged and supportive comments, with De Bratcher also chiming in to offer his apology for what took place on Dunnville Talks.

Leah Rivers, 5, Cayuga

“This hurts my heart,” summed up Noelle. “You don’t choose who you fall in lovewith. I fell in love with Evan, a wonderful man, but I could have fallen in love with anyone. To think that there are people, where I am supposed to feel safe and comfortable to raise my family with open values and open arms, who think this kind of behaviour is acceptable is just downright disgusting…. All we can do is continue to support each other to be the people we were all born to be with NOTHING to prove to anyone.”

Pride Haldimand Norfolk handed out over 400 signs over the month of June. Even as Pride Month was drawing to a close, they continued to be approached by people asking for one, proving that there is a rapidly growing population who is actively engaged in rejecting intolerance and building a better, more inclusive county for all those who call it home.

Mackenzie, 8, Morgan, 4, and Teddy, 4, create their own rainbow in Caledonia
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