When Cody Barlow, a self-described “country boy,” missed the Pride parade that was closest to his rural town, he decided to find another way to show that he is an LGBTQ ally. He collected duct tape in a range of colors and got some mailbox letters. Then, he decorated his truck’s tailgate with a rainbow pride flag and a message.
Barlow, who lives in Oklahoma, used the tape to create a pride flag on the tailgate of 1991 Chevrolet Silverado. With the mailbox letters, he crafted a simple message.
“Not all country boys are bigots,” it read. “Happy Pride Month.”
Barlow, a 28-year-old man who identifies as heterosexual, said he has gay relatives and friends who have been targeted with hatred because of their sexual orientation, according to a report by CNN. He wanted them and others, including those who live in areas where same-sex relationships aren’t viewed as the norm, to understand they weren’t alone.
On Thursday, Barlow shared an image of his truck on Facebook. “Found a way to show my support for pride month,” he said in the post.
“This is important to me, not only because I have family and friends that are LGBTQ+, but also because countless people have dealt with hatred and judgement simply for who they are, and/or who they love, for far too long,” he continued. “Obviously doing this isn’t going to change the minds of those who are intolerant, but hopefully it can help drown out the hatred with love.”
“It doesn’t matter what negativity I receive for supporting this,” he said in the post. “I hope that this can help even the slightest bit to encourage and support at least one person that needs it.”
“I hope everyone finds their inner strength to finally live life loud and proud without regard for the negativity of ignorant people.”
After sharing the image, Barlow’s post went viral. In just four days, it was viewed over 70,000 times. His inbox was also flooded with messages from people expressing their gratitude.
“I was trying to reach anyone it would help,” said Barlow. “People are sending me these stories, telling me what they’ve dealt with over the years, telling me they were tearing up and crying while reading this post.”
“I didn’t realize what kind of impact this was going to have.”
Initially, Barlow’s post received a lot of responses from anti-LGBTQ individuals, though Barlow said that he was expecting it.
“I live in a rural area in Oklahoma, surrounded by small towns in every direction, and I’m sure this is not a very welcome message around here,” Barlow said in the Facebook post.
Over time, people started thanking Barlow in the comments. Others sent private messages discussing their experiences with hatred and discrimination.
“I realized that anything that comes my way doesn’t affect me on a personal level in the same way it affects the LGBTQ community. This is the kind of stuff they have to deal with all the time,” said Barlow.
“Even if it helps one person, it’s worth it.”