Melinda and Kelly Person were excited to buy their first home as a family three years ago. They have created many happy memories in their house in Guilderland, a suburb of Albany, New York, and look forward to many more with their three young boys, twins who are three and a four-month-old baby. But an aggressive and homophobic neighbor is infringing on their dreams and causing the family undue concern about their safety.
Following the heinous attack at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando this past June, in which dozens of LGBT people were murdered by a lone gunman, Melinda and Kelly erected a rainbow flag outside their home on an otherwise quiet suburban street in a show of solidarity and mourning.
They didn’t think anything of it and in fact some neighbors even showed their support. “We have had two or three neighbors stop by and say they like our flag,” Melinda relayed.
But their next door neighbor, an older couple, took issue with the LGBT pride symbol. They immediately put up “No trespassing” signs in the backyard along the border that separated their yard from the Person’s.
Melinda took offense but kept an optimistic outlook. She knocked on their front door in the hopes of clarifying. “I asked them if they would take the signs down, apologized for whatever we may have done to offend them and asked if we could start over and try to get along,” she said.
They called the police on her for trespassing.
Still, Melinda tried further de-escalating techniques. She wrote them a letter but they never responded.
They tried to ignore the neighbors from that point on, but they were warned by others in the neighborhood that the couple was crazy and they should be aware.
Sure enough, the couple’s antics didn’t stop. On their sons’ third birthday this August, Melinda and Kelly held a little gathering in their yard. The next door neighbors, seemingly in an attempt to unnerve and disrupt the family celebration, rode two lawnmowers in circles around their adjacent yard the entire afternoon.
And then, just one day ago, the neighbors defaced their trees and spray painted “Trump” on two trees in the backyard facing the Person’s home.
“I think Trump has given closeted bigots a sense of empowerment and they now feel the freedom to express their hate,” Melinda relayed. The Person’s do not have any political signage anywhere on their property.
“It’s unfortunate that this is the way they chose to spend their time and energy. We moved to Guilderland because Melinda grew up here and knew it to be a friendly, nice community. These neighbors are the exception, not the rule,” said Kelly.
Melinda and Kelly aren’t sure what other steps they may take, but are considering putting a fence up, something they’d rather not do because of the expense and because they would prefer to just get along with their neighbors.
“Our three-year-old twins ask questions about what the signs are for. We say our neighbors aren’t very nice,” Melinda said.
“I’m sad that my kids have to grow up next to this hate,” Kelly added.
Melinda and Kelly have been together since 2011. They married in 2014 and welcomed two adorable twin boys into the world. Melinda works for a labor union and has been active in LGBTQ advocacy for many years, and was a member of the Board of Directors at the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York’s former LGBT advocacy organization. Her wife Kelly is a Navigator in the Air National Guard.