For anyone looking for a good stereotype founded in a bit of truth, a roll of duct tape usually offers a solid foundation. The belief is that’s the first tool a man grabs when something needs fixing, be it a tear in the pleather recliner, a broken window or a leaky tube.
Across the internet are a slew of more creative examples. People have made tuxedos out of the pliable but durable tape and used it in place of ribbon to wrap gifts. The more creative have even crafted decorative flowers out of them.
An Oklahoma man, however, used the stereotype of duct tape being useful to address any problem to tackle a couple more.
Cody Barlow lives in Hulbert, a town of about 600 people 57 miles southeast of Tulsa. He recently bought various colors of duct tape, and in perfect lines, used them to create the stripes of a pride flag across the tailgate of his blue pickup.
If that didn’t send a strong enough message, he added lettering to read, “Not all country boys are bigots. Happy Pride Month.”
“I live in a rural area in Oklahoma,” he wrote with a picture of the truck posted on social media, “surrounded by small towns in every direction, and I’m sure this is not a very welcome message around here, but this is going to be displayed on my truck for the entire month of June in support of pride month.”
The idea for the tape flag supporting the LGBTQ+ community came to him after the June 12, 2016, shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. A 29-year-old gunman killed 49 people in the popular gay club and wounded 53 others that night before taking his own life.
There were competing motives offered for the assault, including support for Muslim terrorists, anger that a Latino man had given him HIV and the gunman’s internal struggles with being gay while trying to live a straight life. No doubt exists, however, that members of the Orlando gay community were the intended target.
Gays being targeted is nothing new, of course. It happens daily in our country, from subtle judgments to extreme cases like the brutal Matthew Shepard murder in Wyoming. More people standing up against such hate are needed.
Barlow’s outward effort is especially courageous, being a straight, white man in a backwoods Bible Belt town.
“I wanted to reach the people that need this, who are struggling or hopeless and give them a little hope and reason to keep going,” he told USA Today. “Especially younger ones going through middle and high school. I think they deal with it the most being on a level where superficial things seem to matter more, while you’re figuring out place in life.”
There are several members of the LGBTQ+ community in my family and I have hired or worked alongside many more, some who were very open and others who felt threatened or uncomfortable making it known in the conservative towns we lived. In no case did who they chose to love have any effect on our relationship, be it familial, personal or professional.
Pride Month isn’t about flaunting sexuality or trying to convert people into different lifestyles. It isn’t even about forced acceptance of actions we disagree with. It is about the fundamental freedom to be who we are without fear of discrimination or violence.
That’s something even small-town bigots should be able to figure out.