Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Peace is a Verb, Not a Noun: Episode 2

After our rainbow peace flags found a new home on the second floor of the house, we assumed the hater(s) would get the message that homophobia wasn't going to fly. 

All was quiet for a few months.  Then we began to notice dog poo appearing on our front lawn.  We assumed it was accidental or at least inconsequential.  Until it started to turn up on our car.

Next our sidewalk was spray painted with the phrase "be happy not gay".  We reported the the graffiti to the police, called the city for graffiti removal, and waited.  When it wasn't removed in a timely manner we decided a little talk-back was in order and changed the phrase to "be happy AND gay".  With weather and time the words faded away, except for our "AND".  Apparently our paint was of better quality.

A quiet stream of dog poo continued.
We ignored it.

About a month and half ago, Pascal found "Be H" spray painted on the sidewalk.  Our hater(s) had tried to repaint and were interupted.

On August 29th the hater(s) escalated their intensity.  Thursday morning we headed out to walk Relish and found the back tires of our vehicle had been slashed over night. 

Pascal and I stopped, stared, looked at one another.
"Call the police", I said.
"Here we go again", Pascal replied.

My stomach knotted up and I quickly glanced over my shoulder.  Slashing tires was a significant escalation, a violent act involving a weapon and a demonstration of intent.  This was undoubtably scary.  I took a deep breath.

One of the most important lesssons Pascal and I have learned from activism is to resist holding onto fear and anger.  Feeding those emotions will poison you and your actions.  We've learned that the best thing to treat fear and anger is outward positive action.  Peace is a verb, not a noun. 

We swung into action.
1. Call the police.
2. Connect with our neighbours.
3. Call the media.
4. Organize.

The police arrived quickly, added this incident to the list of others we had reported, named the incident a hate crime and have done plenty of follow up.

Our neighbours responded fabulously.  In particular we connected with Heidi and Mike Hunter.  Heidi and Mike had recently sent out 100 "Dear Neighbour" letters explaining that they were being targeted for their rainbow flags (stolen flags, dog poo, the same "be happy not gay" grafitti).  We grabbed the letter off the fridge and walked over to introduce ourselves.  From them we learned another house in the neighbourhood had been targetted with the same grafitti.

Pascal and I were disgusted that so many incidents of hate were developing in our neighbourhood, and yet thrilled to connect with our neighbours.  As we chatted with Heidi on her front porch a small group of her friends and neighbours started to form.  Everyone was concerned and upset, but the overwhelming feeling was a sense of urgency in responding to these hate crimes with love rather than hate, inclusion rather than discrimination, peace rather than violence.

The strong positive support we felt from our neighbours gave us natural momentum as we started into task number three: call the media.

We (Heidi, Mike, Pascal and I) were on CBC's 11 o'clock news.  On Friday Citynews, The Toronto Star, a CBC follow up,  Xtra, the Bloor-West Villager arrived for interviews.  On Sunday,  Now Magazine.  On Monday morning Mike was on CBC Radio 1's Metro Morning with Matt Galloway (6:13 am!).  

Each reporter gave their support and excitement to the next task in  our plan: organize.

Pascal and I wanted to shift the understanding of our front yard space, and of our neighbourhood, from a site of hate crimes to a place of queer-positive, inclusive celebration.  Heidi and Mike, the residents of Peace Flag House, Juliana and Carlos, newly met neighbours, friends and family all supported these ideas.  A community BBQ celebrating inclusion started to make a lot of sense.  

With our neighbours and friends we have created Neighbours United For Inclusion: Community BBQ.  Join us on Saturday, September 14th at Runnymede Collegiate (569 Jane Street, North parking lot) for free food, live music and a whole lot of rainbow.  Together we will celebrate and affirm our commitment to building inclusive communities.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." 
Margaret Mead

At Peace Flag House we believe that positive social change happens through collective efforts; not through isolated exertion.  We invite you to take peaceful action on Saturday the 14th by helping us cover our neighbourhood(s) with rainbows.  Rainbow flags will be available at the BBQ.  Fly your flag for the day wherever your neighbourhood and show your support for inclusion, safe space and peace.  We'd love to see your photos posted on our page ALL THE RAINBOWS IN MY NEIGHBOURHOOD and on our Facebook page.  

Peace is a verb, not a noun.


  1. What an inspiring response to the hate! I will definitely post photos of peace flags here (how exactly?) and/or on your FB event. Wishing you a fabulous BBQ -- I wish we could join you in person!

    peace-ing and solidarity-ing from London

  2. Here is one photo (among many) of another peace flag in action...

    1. Hi David,

      I've created a new page on the blog called All The Rainbows In My Neighbourhood. Your fabulous photo is posted there.
      Rainbow solidarity photos can be sent to peaceflaghouse@gmail.com for posting to the All The Rainbows page.
      Thanks again for your support!
      Sarah @ Peace Flag House

  3. Thank you so much for your support David!
    I'm still working on figuring out the photo posting thing on the blog. In the mean time, I know the FB group would love to see your photo!
    Sarah @ Peace Flag House