Seventeen year old Miranda DeLong received a huge shock as she was returning home from work last week. It was 2am in the morning. She, a proud bi teen, was accompanied by her friend, who is transgender, walking from the boardwalk where they were employed. There before them, scrawled in taggers graffiti paint across her family’s garage were the large words: “I’m Gay”.
Miranda’s sister Emily is also an out bi teen.
Miranda immediately ran in to wake up mom Erin, and dad Joe. The family gathered outside to see the work of someone determined to shame them. Miranda and Emily were in a state of shock. Their mom and dad were furious. Erin told me, “Our kids are our everything, and to see them hurt is worse than being hurt ourselves.”
No one needed to inform the DeLong family that they were an LGBT household. “We found out Miranda was bi when I read her diary when she was in the 8th grade. She was having some issues at school, and wasn’t talking. I confronted her and asked and then told her that she could love whoever she wanted, as long as she’s happy,” Erin states. “Emily came out to us just this year. Her best friend is gay, and had “I’m gay” written on her hand. Emily wrote, “so am I” on her own. I didn’t react much and she thought I didn’t realize what it said until she asked for another girl to spend the night. I asked if they were dating, and she ran out of the room. She thought her sister had “told” on her. I went up to her room and said we already knew from the writing on her hand. She asked why we didn’t react, and I said because I wouldn’t have overreacted if she said she was straight, why overreact for saying she was gay, to which she replied, ‘I like boys, too.’ And I told her the same thing we told her sister: Please love who you want and be happy.”
It is ironic that the same statement Emily used that allowed her mom to lovingly embrace who she is, was now being used in an attempt to harm the family.
Harm was not to be had, however. “We decided to paint,” Erin declares. “We decided that some announcements deserve more than gray spray paint.” Paint, they did. Their garage now sports the largest rainbow flag image for miles around.
Some have asked why the broader LGBT image was used rather than the specific Bi image. Thinking of Miranda’s transgender friend who also experienced the shock of the event, Erin answers, “We made it rainbow so we could include all sexualities, we have many LGBT friends that visit our house and we wanted them to all feel accepted. It was a way to support them all.”
The DeLong family has already received some world wide support through the site Stop-Homophobia where the image of their newly painted garage first appeared.Artist/designer Aldo Gatt applauded their creative endeavor, especially since their experience hit so close to his own. “What an amazing response. I had the same done to my house back in 2009. Someone broke into the house and sprayed homophobic threats on the walls. It was devastating to think anyone would have such hatred in them,” he wrote.
Aldo’s break in was covered in the local press at the time. They changed his name in the story to protect him. The vandals obviously knew that a gay man had just purchased the dwelling, which had been built in the16th century and scrawled their warning across the home chapel’s wall. “The house is 450 years old and has historic marine graffiti on the walls that were vandalised with the graffiti. Thankfully a restorer acquaintance of mine helped me with advice on how to remove the graffiti without damaging the walls.” Aldo reports.
Aldo, like the DeLong’s found that an artistic retaliation was better than an angry one. The once vandalized wall is now a thing of beauty in the vacation rental home.
Times and attitudes have changed in six years, as the DeLongs are fortunate in receiving support from their local police force, in a way that Aldo was not. “The police asked the local paper to put a notice asking if anyone has any information. I think it was someone that knows my younger daughter. Her boyfriend is trans and her best friend is gay. They’re at the house a lot, and it’s not some closely guarded secret. That’s why we think someone was just shaming them. They’re already out.” Erin states.
“For me, it was different,” Aldo reports. “The lack of empathy and professionality shown by the Malta police when I reported it was as disturbing as the event itself. I was very upset when I went to report it as you can imagine. The police woman there was extremely rude to me, telling me straight that they wouldn’t send anyone to see what happened. She couldn’t (or wouldn’t) see it as a the personal threat it was.”
We are living in a time where LGBT progress is inspiring homophobic anger. The haters are in the mood to harm and humiliate. Our work on public attitudes is not over.
The Delong family, and Mr. Gatt are showing us our greatest weapon in response. It is not anger or retaliation, it is our creativity.
When attacked, we can channel our understandable rage, not into revenge, but into beauty. When smeared, we don’t smear back, when hurt, we don’t let them see us cry.
They see us plant rainbows.
Apparently, given His response on the day that the Roman Catholic dominated country Ireland passed marriage equality … God agrees.