Across from the Westboro Baptist Church sits the Equality House. Painted in a rainbow to represent the LGBT pride flag, it’s a direct response to the church, which is known for its signs declaring that God hates gay people – though the signs tend to use a certain anti-gay slur, rather than the word “gay.” The house belongs to an organization called Planting Peace, and their intent, they say, is to respond to hate with love.
Planting Peace bought the house in 2013, and painted it in the iconic rainbow design. Once a year, however, the paint job has been temporarily redone in three colors, five stripes: pink, blue, and white, as a representation of the transgender pride flag, for Transgender Remembrance Day.
With transgender rights a particularly contentious subject in the cultural conversation at the moment, it’s perfect timing. Currently, North Carolina is battling to keep a law that restricts transgender individuals’ access to appropriate bathrooms, Target is facing a boycott for saying trans employees and customers can use the restrooms and fitting rooms that match their identity, and even theme parks are starting to state positions. Meanwhile, just this month an attack that has been called the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, took place in a club on a night when trans talent was headlining, and took the lives of 49 people.
Planting Peace explains:
On one such occasion [when the Equality House was painted as a trans flag], Avery Jackson, a transgender child, visited the house. When she saw the house so proudly and visibly painted in the transgender flag colors, she was filled with a new sense of pride. “I loved the rainbow house when it was painted like the transgender flag,” she said. “I felt so happy and proud to be transgender.”
Avery’s story, and the stories of countless other members of the transgender community who visit the Equality House each year, inspired Planting Peace to reinforce the importance of being highly visible in supporting LGBT rights. This has become increasingly important with the emergence of discriminating legislation and consistent messages of being broken or ‘less than’ targeted at the transgender community. These negative messages have resulted in alarmingly high suicide rates within the transgender community.
The Westboro Baptist Church responded much as expected, with derisive messages on signs.
— WBCSigns (@WBCsigns) June 26, 2016
Other tweets and photos from the church contain slurs too inappropriate to be reproduced here.
The Westboro Baptists have already clashed with supporters of trans rights once this month, when they attempted to protest at the funerals of those killed in the aforementioned nightclub shooting. They were blocked from accessing the venue by a human chain — including a number of people dressed as angels, complete with wings.
Meanwhile, the folks behind the Equality House were raising $100k to help the victims and their families.
In addition to repainting the Equality House for visibility, Planting Peace is also working on another project in support of trans rights. They’re currently fundraising to have “the world’s largest transgender flag” made — and they intend to raise it at the North Carolina Capitol building.
It’s intended as a protest against HB2 — the North Carolina law passed in March that defines “biological sex” by an individual’s birth certificate, and calls for people to be required to use bathrooms accordingly — regardless of outward appearance or safety. For every dollar donated, there will be one square foot of flag created. At the time of this writing, $590 has been collected.
Despite protests from the Westboro Baptist Church, Equality House is making efforts not only for visibility, but to support the transgender community directly.
[Image via Planting Peace]