Jessica Hanks was this year’s Grand Prize Winner for the City of Wetaskiwin’s Canada Day decorating contest. After being selected by members of City Council as one of the top ten submissions she moved on to take top spot after receiving 6,117 votes from the public for her decorations.
Hanks was surprised to receive an anonymous letter earlier this week; thinking it had something to do with the contest, potentially someone reaching out with congratulations, she opened it.
Instead, the anonymous writer had written to tell Hanks that they disapproved of Hank’s display of inclusivity in her decorating for the contest, including the Pride flag hanging in Hank’s yard.
The letter begins by stating that they are not writing to congratulate Hanks.
“You apparently have no pride in being a true Canadian in that I do believe that was a multi-coloured ‘flag’ hanging on your fence indicating the ‘sick’ portion of society,” the letter says.
Hank says she was horrified as she read the letter.
“I started crying,” Hanks says, “My daughter was standing beside me as I read it and my daughter is gay.”
Hanks says that this letter felt like a personal attack as a mother of a 15-year-old daughter who is part of the LGBTQ community.
Hanks was bewildered that somebody would hate the LGBTQ community enough that they would personally write her a letter about her use of the Pride flag in her decorations for the contest.
The letter continues, claiming, “junk like the ‘Pride’ followers have no place in society and certainly not in Wetaskiwin.”
Hanks posted the letter to social media sites including Wetaskiwin Rant and Rave Tuesday, July 21, 2020. As of noon July 22, 2020 Hanks had over 320 comments on the post, the vast majority supporting her and denouncing the homophobic letter.
“It was nice to see Wetaskiwin have my back,” she says.
Wetaskiwin’s Mayor, Tyler Gandam, even spoke up in support of Hanks and the LGBTQ community in Wetaskiwin on his Mayor Tyler Gandam Facebook page saying,
“If the person who wrote this, sees this post, please know that I was one of the people who proudly helped paint the Pride crosswalks on Main Street this year and last year. I’m proud of the City I live in and get to be the Mayor for. I hope that we continue to build inclusivity in our community. If you’re unhappy with how things are and need help finding a realtor, please let me know, I’ll be happy to help!”
Hanks has decided to take the negativity of the letter and turn it into a positive “I’m going to retaliate with even more love,” she says. “When you drive by my house next time the rainbow will be even bigger.”
Sunday July 26, 2020 Hanks and volunteers from the community including Sexual and Gender Awareness (SAGA) Wetaskiwin, and Wetaskiwin City Councillor Gabrielle Blatz-Morgan will be painting Hank’s fence rainbow to celebrate the LGBTQ community.
Hanks says that she won’t let this letter deter her from fighting for inclusivity in the community. She also says that the support she has received through all of this is a testament to the people of Wetaskiwin, and that appreciates everyone who has reached out.