Driving around Fairfield County in June, Wilton resident Nicole Wilson-Spiro noticed that Wilton stood out from every other town she visited. In those other towns, she saw very visibly displayed the widely-recognized rainbow flags on every corner to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride month — but Wilton had none in sight.
Knowing there were no marches or parades, or townwide campaigns planned to commemorate the month, Wilson-Spiro was disappointed. She felt Wilton’s lack of visible support for its LGBTQ+ residents didn’t accurately represent the beliefs of the town.
“That makes a statement that we aren’t doing anything and I don’t think that really reflects who we are,” she said.
Wilson-Spiro raised the question about the absence of a visible display of pride to the members of the Working Moms of Wilton Facebook group and got an overwhelmingly positive response. Supportive comments offering help were posted immediately by people who were prepared to plan some pride.
One of the volunteers was Vanessa Elias who also noticed the pride signs in surrounding towns and asked her daughter to create a version for Wilton.
Her daughter sketched a design of the Progress Pride flag, created in 2018 by graphic designer Daniel Quasar to be more inclusive. This updated version of the rainbow flag includes light blue and light pink colored stripes which are used on the Transgender Pride Flag, and brown and black stripes to include LGBTQ+ people of color.
Elias volunteers for Kids in Crisis in Greenwich which hosts weekly Lighthouse Project meetings to support LGBTQ+ kids and teens. She explained that public displays of pride are extremely important in light of the alarmingly high suicide rate among LGBTQ+ youth.
“Symbols having meaning. When you have those symbols out and feel supported in the community, you know you’re not alone,” said Elias.
In less than 24 hours, Wilton resident and graphic designer Sarah Beach created a digital version of the flag, which was sent to Purple Frog, the printing business that opened in February of this year, who agreed to turn around the signs in one day.
“We’re in a community that has a lot of different kinds of people and it’s important to support all of them,” said Wilton resident Dave Cote, who happens to be Purple Frog’s northeast regional manager. “When something important like this job comes in, that somebody needs very quickly, especially for a first-time customer, we want to do it and we want to do it right,”
Once the first 50 signs were printed, Caroline Unger created the order form. Signs are $20 apiece, with $5 from every sign purchase benefitting the Lighthouse Project.
The Painted Cookie and Good Morning Wilton sponsored the printing of over 30 signs for the group to put out in visible places around town and for local businesses to display. In all, the ad-hoc group of residents have sold 138 signs and raised $1,800 for the Lighthouse Project so far.
While handing out signs, Wilson-Spiro was inspired by the response she got from businesses like Tusk and Cup who were enthusiastic about the movement for LGBTQ+ visibility in town.
“I hope that they show people around town, especially kids, what kind of community Wilton is and that we really encourage and celebrate difference,” she said.
Seeing pride flags displayed publically can ease the worries of kids who are, “Looking around to see, ‘Am I safe here? Is this going to be a place that is going to celebrate and support me?” said Wilson-Spiro. “Having all these signs up is a really clear way to say ‘Yes, we are going to celebrate and support you and you are safe here.'”
Cote and Elias were especially moved by an online story about a young LGBTQ person who thanked someone for displaying their pride flag.
The signs in Wilton appear to have a similar effect, according to Elias. She was warmed to hear that a gay college student in town said, “Every time I drive by a sign it makes me smile.”
In her eight years as a resident, Wilson-Spiro has observed the town’s great strides toward embracing diversity. “That makes me proud of Wilton,” she said.
She hopes the flags inspire town organizations to start thinking about ways to celebrate pride next year.
Although pride month has ended, the sign effort organizers say support for LGBTQ+ people is still needed year-round. They encourage Wilton to celebrate “Pride Summer” and “Pride 365” by continuing to purchase signs online.