Sal Stow is used to seeing an LGBTQ pride flag fly from her partner’s house in Round Rock, Texas. But while bringing in some packages in front of her home last week, she found something on the doorstep she didn’t expect.
Round Rock is just north of Austin, the state capital.
A hand-written note thanked Stow and her partner, Meghan Stabler, saying the flag helped the letter writer come out to their parents and be accepted. Below the message was an illustration of a person holding a transgender and pansexual flag.
“Initially I was speechless, and tears streamed as I realized that our flying the flag had empowered a young person to be more comfortable with themselves and come out to their family,” Stow said. “My next thought was I hoped that their family was supporting them, that they are OK and have the support they need.”
Stow’s Facebook post on the letter has since been shared over 1,400 times, gaining national attention. CBS News, "Good Morning America" and Upworthy are among the national news outlets that have covered the inspirational story.
In her post, she said, “This is why visibility is so important. You never know who needs the support and to know it’s OK.”
According to the 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report by the Human Rights Campaign, only 21-22% of LGBTQ youth have fully come out to their parents about their sexual or gender identity. From those who have, 48% say that their families make them feel bad for being LGBTQ.
“Youths look for role models and validation,” Stow said. “By being out and visible, it shows that we are the same as anyone else. It’s equally important that allies show support, as too many LGBTQ+ youths are rejected by family and those in their lives. They need to know where safe spaces are.”
Just one day before Stow found the note, the Williamson County commissioners rejected a request by two justices of the peace to fly the pride flag and POW/MIA flag outside of their county offices. Instead, the commissioners voted unanimously to only allow the U.S. flag, the Texas flag and the county flag.
Justices of the peace Stacy Hackenberg and KT Musselman had made the request in order to fly the Pride flag in June and the POW/MIA flag during the week of Veterans Day. During the session, Hackenberg told the Commissioners Court she is queer and Musselman said he is gay.
In her statement to commissioners, Hackenberg said until people are no longer at risk of unemployment for being LGBTQ, and until transgender service members are able to serve in the military, no one is truly free. Musselman told the commissioners he believed the pride flag “represents fuller equality for all that are coming before our courtroom than just simply the ones that we display on a day-to-day basis.”
Apart from being shared more than 1,400 times, Stow’s Facebook post has received several comments from people saying they want to put up their own pride flags.
Stow said the pride flag — which has flown at her partner’s house year-round for over three years — had helped her navigate safe places when she was coming out in her 20s.
“The importance of visibility is even the smallest thing can empower someone without you knowing,” she said. “There are vulnerable people who need to know they are seen, heard and loved. Seeing that symbol helped me so much.”
While the letter writer is moving away, Stow said she wants the person to know she can always be reached.
“We see them, we hear them and they are loved,” she said. “If they would like or need support, we are here for them and please reach out to us.”