On Sunday, just over a year since he first came out, Caden Wyatt, 15, told the most people he ever has that he’s gay — and he did it with his dad by his side.
For the first time in their lives, and likely one of the first times in their neighborhood, the Wyatts hung a flag outside their house to ring in Pride Month.
“We are fixin’ to shock Oklahoma,” John Wyatt, 45, announced to both their neighbors and over a million TikTok users, to the beat of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” playing in the background.
A TikTok that John posted of the family’s big milestone has gone massively viral in the four days since it was posted, drawing tons of support, praise, and heartfelt comments.
“I’m really lucky to have such supportive parents, because I know a lot of other people aren’t as lucky as me,” Caden told BuzzFeed News.
The Wyatts live in Owasso, just outside of Tulsa, a strongly conservative community. “There’s a lot of Q flags in our neighborhood, a lot of Trump flags and Blue Lives Matter Flags, [but] you don’t see any pride flags at all,” John said.
John admittedly wasn’t always so supportive of the LGBTQ community — for most of his life, he was very conservative and religious. But that changed when he and his wife got the inkling that Caden, who was still a young child at the time, might be gay. “That’s when we really started embracing [the community], because we knew our son was gay, and at any time he could come out,” John said. “And he needed to see that we were going to be able to support him and be there for him.”
The flag the family hung outside their home is the “ally flag,” featuring a rainbow letter A atop a background of black and white stripes, which Caden and his mother bought at their city’s first Pride festival last spring. Caden has a classic pride flag hanging in his room, but he hopes the ally flag will serve as a symbol that his whole family stands with the LGBTQ community. “I want people to know that my parents have their back, and so do I,” Caden said.
The ally flag has sparked some debate among TikTok commenters, some of whom have taken issue with it over the idea that it centers straight and cisgender people. As John explained in a follow-up TikTok, "the black and white bars represent the heterosexual and cisgender community, the allies...and of course the rainbow colors in the 'A' represent the LGBTQ+ community." John said he researched the flag to make sure he was not promoting something he shouldn’t, but that he got even more comments from people saying they loved the flag the family chose. "[Caden] is the one who told us to buy this flag to show support for him ... but I'm not above doing a little more research," he said in another TikTok.
Despite the online outpouring of support, the flag has thus far not gotten any noticeable reaction from the Wyatts’ neighbors — a pleasant surprise, as they’d worried it might get stolen or vandalized.
“We’re letting people know it’s a safe place,” John said. “I’m not trying to cause any controversy in the neighborhood, but maybe there’s some person out there who will see that flag and smile and feel safe.”
Nancy McDonald, a former national president of PFLAG and founder of its Tulsa chapter, told BuzzFeed News that hanging a flag can be a meaningful way for parents to show their support for their LGBTQ children, whether that’s an ally flag or the more typically seen pride flag.
“If you need a symbol, a flag like that, that’s fine,” McDonald said. “I choose to use the rainbow flag because that tells people, yes, that’s a family that supports their gay child.”
Many people have commented on the family’s TikTok, saying they wish their own parents could be as accepting of their sexuality or gender.
John said he hopes his family’s flag is a reminder to others that they’re not alone.
“Every time I get a comment like that, I tell them I got them,” he said. “If they need somebody to talk to, I’m here. And if they need a ‘dad hug,’ I’m here. If they’re local and they need to come over for dinner, whatever — our home is open to them.”
Putting himself out there so boldly wasn’t easy for Caden, but he’s thrilled he did it.
“I was kind of nervous at first, because I didn’t know how people were going to act, but I just don’t really care what they think anymore,” he said. “I’m just going to be myself.”