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I am so proud to be a Napa County community member and LGBTQ parent of two young children today. There are lots of reasons to love living in Napa and love being a parent.

But today, I feel especially proud to be both. And that’s because the Rainbow Flag will fly at every City Hall (Calistoga, St. Helena, Yountville, Napa, and American Canyon) and at both Napa County campuses this June.

I am proud of the LGBTQ people, people with LGBTQ relatives, and allies who came out to speak at city council and board meetings all over Napa County. During public comment, people demonstrated vulnerability and shared very personal stories about their experience with hate, discrimination, harassment, and feelings of not being safe. People shared stories about their transgender or gay children. Teens shared stories about not always knowing when they are safe to “come out” and be themselves.

All of these people shared that the rainbow flag made them feel safe and visible and supported by their communities.

I am proud of the city council and board members who nearly unanimously  voted to support and celebrate diversity and inclusion in their communities by flying the Rainbow Flag during Pride Month. City councilmembers shared stories about their transgender or gay children. City councilmembers shared their experiences with feeling unsafe being a member of the LGBTQ community. City councilmembers shared that they believe diversity is what makes our community beautiful and strong.

I am proud of the LGBTQ individuals and allies who petitioned city council and community members for the Rainbow Flag in 2013 and didn’t get to see the flag fly that year. I moved to Napa in 2014, so I don’t have personal stories to tell you about how unreceptive – potentially hostile – city council and community members were in 2013. But I’ve heard the stories.

I am proud of those LGBTQ and ally community members who stood up for equality then, felt discouraged or discriminated against, and yet stood back up and fought for the same thing again.

I am proud of the many parents I encounter who are raising their children to accept others’ differences and celebrate what makes each person unique. To celebrate and stand up for all types of people and families – people of color, people from other countries, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, families with two moms or two dads, and families with adopted children. To celebrate and help their kids really understand that knowing people who are different than them enriches their lives.

The rainbow flag is a symbol of the continued movement for equality for the LGBTQ community. We’ve come a long way since the 1970s, and some people forget that the rainbow flag and Pride Month is more than a celebration.

Yes, the LGBTQ community has it way better now than it did in the 1970s. I was able to marry the woman I love in front of my grandparents, her parents and mine, and many friends and relatives. I have two beautiful kids. I am “out” to everyone in my life, including the people at the park that ask me if my husband has red hair like my children.

But we have a long way to go. People are murdered for being transgender. People are harassed on the street. People in certain communities feel like they can’t hold hands with the person they love. People can still be fired in many states for being gay. So, the rainbow flag empowers to the LGBTQ community and allies to continue fighting for equality.

However, the rainbow flag also signals to LGBTQ people and their families – and I would argue any people who feel discriminated against or potentially unsafe – that they are welcome and safe. I look for rainbow flags everywhere. If I see a rainbow flag at a church, I know it’s a welcoming congregation. If I see a rainbow flag at my doctor’s office, I know that they will try to use the language I use to talk about my family. If I see a rainbow flag at City Hall, I know that my city celebrates diversity and values inclusion and respect for all people.

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When I see a rainbow flag anywhere, I breathe a sigh of relief and almost always have a smile on my face. And my hope is that it does that for everyone. It doesn’t represent a “special interest” or a “social issue.”

To be clear, it represents the following:

Black and Brown stripes represent “diversity and inclusion of people of color;”

Red – “life;”

Orange – “healing;”

Yellow – “sun/light;”

Green – “nature;”

Blue – “harmony;”

Purple – “spirit.”

How can anyone say 'no' to something as beautiful as a rainbow?

Anne Sutkowi-Hemstreet

Napa

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