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How a message of acceptance from rural Oklahoma touched people around the world

Oklahoma resident Cody Barlow tells CNN's Don Lemon what inspired him to decorate his 1991 Chevrolet Silverado for Pride Month.

Posted: Jun 11, 2019 9:04 AM


When Cody Barlow missed the Pride parade in Tulsa -- the closest celebration to his rural Oklahoma town -- he found another way to be an LGBTQ ally.

Using duct tape and mailbox letters, he decorated the tailgate of his 1991 Chevrolet Silverado with a rainbow pride flag and a message:

"Not all country boys are bigots... Happy Pride Month."

Barlow, 28, identifies as a heterosexual man. He has gay friends and relatives who have experienced hatred because of their sexual orientation, he said.

He wanted those people and others like them to know they're not alone, even in places where same-sex relationships are not the norm.

He shared a picture of his truck on Facebook on Thursday, hoping to encourage compassion. He did not expect it to be shared more than 70,000 times in four days, filling his inbox with messages of gratitude from around the world.

"I was trying to reach anyone it would help," he said. "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, though, the response was largely anti-LGBTQ, just as he predicted it might be when he posted the photo.

"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," he wrote on Facebook Thursday.

"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."

His expectations were based on his experience growing up in a rural, predominantly Christian part of the state, he said.

"When I was younger, it seemed like everyone was the same. This is an area where everyone goes to church and nobody strays from the path," he said. "Over time, I started opening my mind more and seeing everything that was going on around me."

Where he lives now, people don't express anti-LGBTQ sentiment openly, he said, but he anticipated that it might come through on social media.

As hateful comments weighed down the post, he began to wonder if he'd made a mistake and considered deleting it.

Then, people started thanking him in the comments and sharing the post. Others messaged him privately with their own stories of experiencing hate and discrimination, and he had a change of heart.

"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," he said.

Now, the positive reactions far outweigh the negative ones, he said. And he's working on making appearances with his truck at Pride parades throughout the state the rest of the month, he said.

"Even if it helps one person, it's worth it," he said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 614946

Reported Deaths: 9807
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion849231342
Lake45784693
Allen33103560
Hamilton29752316
St. Joseph27572383
Elkhart24496346
Vanderburgh19679255
Tippecanoe18150144
Johnson15234296
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Madison11071223
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Vigo10819185
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Delaware9193136
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Hancock6783106
Bartholomew6659100
Floyd6522113
Wayne6194164
Grant6050118
Dubois559081
Boone557968
Morgan551996
Henry512365
Marshall507884
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Cass487864
Noble476159
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Sullivan193633
Washington189023
Fountain185227
Starke177044
Jay168723
Owen168338
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Orange161035
Carroll160616
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Perry156129
Vermillion150034
Franklin149933
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Parke13098
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Blackford112023
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Brown88835
Benton87110
Crawford8099
Martin75013
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Switzerland6695
Union6297
Ohio4967
Unassigned0375

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 872918

Reported Deaths: 10856
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin102616707
Cuyahoga868931154
Hamilton65148455
Montgomery43662420
Summit35411766
Lucas31794634
Butler31451232
Stark26247445
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Lorain19378229
Mahoning17561339
Lake16350161
Clermont16235113
Delaware1463881
Licking13453142
Fairfield1301782
Trumbull12980317
Greene12226144
Medina11798169
Clark11094266
Wood10507158
Allen10031128
Portage9514111
Richland9275134
Miami927273
Marion7512113
Tuscarawas7455186
Columbiana7433124
Pickaway735250
Muskingum714042
Wayne7140172
Erie6253130
Ross5589100
Hancock556292
Scioto545365
Geauga518955
Darke474395
Lawrence464658
Union459130
Ashtabula457973
Sandusky440462
Huron435541
Mercer435590
Seneca435366
Auglaize425166
Belmont423948
Jefferson423969
Shelby422923
Washington396340
Athens38619
Putnam379276
Madison359930
Knox358423
Ashland349638
Fulton341744
Defiance336188
Crawford327274
Preble323637
Brown318821
Logan314835
Ottawa297443
Clinton293944
Highland282219
Williams282267
Jackson266145
Guernsey259326
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Fayette241030
Morrow23594
Perry235518
Holmes227274
Henry222954
Hardin217033
Coshocton208023
Van Wert204445
Gallia200126
Wyandot198151
Pike180918
Adams179815
Hocking174024
Carroll158216
Paulding145521
Noble121040
Meigs110324
Monroe103433
Harrison89821
Morgan84531
Vinton71714
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