It started with an inflatable rainbow Christmas tree on Purcellville’s Main Street.
Jane Turner and her fiancée, Tiffany Burtt, have been adding rainbow flags and bunting to their house since last summer. Being LGBTQ in western Loudoun can be lonely, Turner said, but in the past year, the Rainbow House has turned into a beacon for young people and a touchpoint for allies.
After Turner put up the illuminated rainbow tree last December, she got a joyful shout-out on a local social media page. That post snowballed and inspired Turner to launch the Purcellville Pride Facebook group for LGBTQ community members, family and allies.
“To me the flags are for the kids who aren’t out yet,” Turner said. “I’m not out not because I need everybody to know who I am but because of that one kid who might walk by and feel like it’s OK. … It’s about love.”
As the rainbows continued to pop up, notes started to pour in, often simply addressed to The Rainbow House. A college student wrote to share that she brought her girlfriend home to Purcellville for the first time and immediately drove by Turner’s home. A high school counselor wrote to say the house comes up in conversations with LGBTQ students struggling to express themselves. A local mom posted that her 5-year-old calls it “the house that loves everybody.”
Rainbow paintings from young kids and bouquets of flowers with grateful notes appeared on the porch.
The house and the Facebook group have turned the couple into local “celesbians,” Turner said with a laugh. They get recognized while running errands in town and were stopped by a mom in a local Dollar Store who shared her own story of moving from fear to acceptance with her own teen daughter’s coming out.
“People have left flowers on the porch,” Turner said. “People will drive by with their windows down and scream out the windows, ‘We love your house!’”
In Lovettsville, another high-profile couple, Sheryl Frye and Kris Consaul, are taking a page from Turner’s book. Last weekend, they turned their familiar white picket fence in the middle of town into a brightly colored rainbow.
“It largely came from seeing Jane and Tiffany’s house and watching them get the letters they got from the young people—helping them to know they matter,” Consaul said. “It’s a good thing to let the kids in the community know that if they ever need somebody to talk to, here’s a place they fly the flag.”
The couple, who got married on Valentine’s Day in 2019, invited community members to come out and help paint.
“We wanted to make sure that everybody and anybody felt like they could come and help,” Frye said. “That it really was about the love in Lovettsville. … The response was tremendous.”
Being openly gay in conservative western Loudoun isn’t always easy. But there’s far more support than animosity, both couples say.
Turner, who owns a well-known equestrian facility, said that when she came out six years ago, there were some personal and professional upheavals.
“I think it was a shock to many of the people who knew me. It was very lonely,” Turner said.
Turner lost a few clients and a few friends. She has three children in local public schools, and there have been some canceled playdates and schoolyard aggressions. But there also are upstanders and allies. And so far, the couple have only gotten one anonymous negative note.
“I didn’t feel angry about that. I felt sad for the person that they believed that so much they felt the need to tell me,” Turner said. “The overwhelming majority were so positive. … Once we started getting feedback, we realized this is helping kids. … I think being true and being honest is how change is going to happen.”
Burtt is a Mississippi native, mom of an adult son and technology entrepreneur who has lived in the D.C. area for 30 years. She was living in Ashburn when she met Turner last year. The couple is planning a small wedding later this summer.
For Burtt, the small displays of allyship in Purcellville, like posting rainbow stickers in local shops and homes, are inspiring.
“I don’t think people need to hang flags and do what we do. Just showing support and solidarity,” Burtt said. “And voting is huge”
Frye and Consaul are well-known community leaders and ubiquitous volunteers for town events and community organizations. Both have run for local elected office, and Consaul currently serves on the Lovettsville Planning Commission. Consaul has two grown children and Frye has two children at local schools. Frye is a former cheerleading coach and youth sports volunteer and said sometimes support comes from unexpected places, like cheer squad moms and local youth football leagues.
“Being engaged, being in a community that’s very engaged around events and town politics and people coming together to do things really makes this feel like home to us,” Frye said.
The couple and their family are regulars at Lovettsville’s restaurants and the local coffee shop. “I’ve never gotten a sideways glance or a comment,” Frye said.
But Consaul, who works as a real estate agent, said there have been moments where she wasn’t quite as sure about speaking out loudly on LGBTQ and political issues.
“I had a decision to make. Do I stay quiet or do I go public about my political feelings and thoughts? I decided it was just too important,” she said. “I lost a client or two, but I also gained clients. Since we’re in a position to be public about what we think and feel, I feel that we ought to do it. The rainbow fence is just another step in upping the presence, upping the statement. The more people who speak out publicly, the more people who want to speak out but are a little afraid, it give them the support to do so as well”
In addition to the fence, the couple is planning a “social justice installation” in their yard with flags from Black Lives Matter, the Human Rights Campaign and American Indian Movement and other organizations. The couple are also inviting community members to add protest signs to the installation.
“Being in a red part of a purply county, it’s definitely our responsibility to make sure that people around us know that LGBTQ doesn’t mean different, doesn’t mean other. The people who know us know us, regardless of our relationship,” Frye said. “We want to make sure that we’re responsibly holding that flag and giving people a touchpoint.”