ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- When Rochester resident Greg Ventura came out to his family and friends about a year ago, it was like a weight off his shoulders.
"It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Ventura said. “It went from this terrifying act, to no big deal at all. I quickly, quickly changed my whole life and how I felt about myself.”
When he put up his gay pride flag outside his home nearly five months ago, it was a symbol of how far he had come. On Tuesday night, however, he was sad and disappointed to find someone had set it on fire. Two Rochester Police Department officers were sent to investigate.
“They started to use the word ‘hate crime’ as they investigated, which really put the emotional twist on the whole act for me,” Ventura said. “From there, they also sent out the fire department to possibly investigate this as arson as well.”
Remnants of the burned flag remain on the porch railing. Ventura said the fire department told him he was lucky the flames did not go up into the soffits or his home could have caught fire.
Ventura said he connects this incident and another flag burning in the same neighborhood to the election. To help deal with what had happened, he joined dozens of others Wednesday night at the Gay Alliance LGBTQ Resource Center, where many were also feeling distressed about the election outcome.
“What we’ve been hearing from folks is that they were concerned about issues of safety, issues of inclusion, fear for their kids in school, things like that because this election had so much vitriol, open racism, open homophobia, name-calling, bullying,” said Scott Fearing, Gay Alliance executive director.
Fearing said the meeting was a way for people to open up in a safe space, and a way for those around them to let them know they’re not alone.
“Our main message right now, we are encouraging people to remember the concept of community; that as a community, we are large in number, we’re strong, and we’re there to help each other,” Fearing said.
Ventura said he feels that sense of community and is glad to have them standing behind him.