When Cody Barlow put a pro-LGBTQ+ message on the back of his pick-up truck, the last thing he expected was to end up on CNN talking to Don Lemon.
The 28-year-old man who identifies as heterosexual used duct-tape and mail letters to decorate his truck with a message that read, “Not all country boys are bigots… Happy Pride Month.”
Barlow decided to post the message on the back of his 1991 Chevrolet Silverado after he missed Tulsa’s Pride Parade. Tulsa is the closest city where a Pride Parade was happening to where Barlow lives.
“This is important to me, not only because I have family and friends that are LGBTQ+, but also because countless people have dealt with hatred and judgement [sic] simply for who they are, and/or who they love, for far too long,” Barlow said in his Facebook post.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Barlow Said He Is a Straight Man Who Enjoys ‘Country’ Activities
In the Facebook post that has not only grabbed the eye of CNN’s Don Lemon but also has gone viral in the past couple of days, Barlow said he is a straight man who enjoys typical “country” activities.
“I don’t think it is necessary to say, but for all intents and purposes I am a straight man that grew up here in Oklahoma. I love taking my truck mudding, going fishing, swimming at the lake, floating the river, and several other ‘country’ activities,” Barlow wrote.
Barlow also added that it doesn’t matter the amount of negativity he receives from his message.
“It doesn’t matter what negativity I receive for supporting this,” Barlow said. “I hope that this can help even the slightest bit to encourage and support at least one person that needs it.”
2. Barlow Said His Parents Support Him and His Message
When Barlow spoke with CNN’s Don Lemon, Barlow said his parents back him all the way. Barlow also said he has friends and family who are LGBTQ+.
“I mean at home, a lot of support,” Barlow told Lemon. “My parents, big supporters of the community. They’ve always raised me properly. Very open-minded, taught me about diversity and culture.”
Barlow said no one has made any negative comments to him face-to-face. This wasn’t the case on social media, at least at first.
“I haven’t had anybody approach me in a negative manner face-to-face. Social media, initially, the first night I made the post on Facebook, it didn’t get that great of a reaction,” Barlow said. “Now that it’s really taken off, it’s overwhelming positive response. I couldn’t believe how much this really impacted people. It’s amazing.”
3. Barlow Hopes His Message Will ‘Drown out the Hatred with Love’
According to CNN, Barlow grew up in a predominately Christian area, where he thought “everyone was the same.”
“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.”
Barlow kept his expectations in check when he initially made the post, expecting some negative backlash against his pro-LGBTQ+ message.
“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,” Barlow said in his post.
He mentioned that in his community anti-LGBTQ+ messages aren’t really expressed openly, but expected it might come through social media. As mentioned earlier, the post did face some initial push-back, but that was before his post went viral and the love overshadowed the negative comments.
“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,” Barlow said in his post.
4. Barlow Is a Navy Veteran with PTSD
This isn’t the first time Barlow has spoken with the media. Although Barlow made waves with his pro-LGBTQ+ message on the back of his truck, LGBTQ+ rights aren’t the only ones Barlow cares about.
According to Oklahoma News Report (ONR), a broadcast apart of Oklahoma PBS affiliate OETA, Barlow served in the United States Navy and continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder because of his service in the military.
“I served from June of 2013 to September of 2017. Just recently discharged with a medical discharge. Diagnosed in early 2017 with PTSD, major depressive disorder, panic disorder with agoraphobia, among many other things – chronic pain, insomnia, the list goes one,” Barlow said in a press conference.
5. Barlow Is a Major Advocate for Medicinal Cannabis
After being discharged from the military, Barlow suffered from many different internal struggles including, PTSD, insomnia, agoraphobia and major depressive disorder.
Barlow shared his story, as a member of the Oklahoma Cannabis League.
“The VA has been well-known to prescribe drugs heavily. That’s there go-to. Over the course of 2017, I averaged out the amount of pharmaceutical drugs that I had taken in pill form to be 9,000 for the year,” Barlow said. “Averaging about 24 a day, I had some other pills that were ‘as needed’ so I would take upwards of 24 up to 30 pills a day.”
Barlow choked up several times throughout the presser, as he claimed that is not easy to talk about his treatment.
He said his treatment did not help him improve.
“I just felt really numb to the world. I felt dulled out. I was tranquilized. I was on so many heavy sedatives I couldn’t function as a normal person anymore,” Barlow said. “I was giving up hope that that’s what was supposed to help me and it wasn’t. I felt like I was reaching the bottom and I was ready to end it.
Barlow then shared an anecdote about a trip to Colorado so he could try cannabis for the first time.
“It was nothing like what I thought it was going to be. I was raised to believe it was a very negative thing. I have heard it referred to the devil’s lettuce, many other things, weed, reefer, marijuana,” Barlow said.
Barlow claimed that his depression was lifted and he could finally live in the moment again and enjoy his friends and family who were around him.
“I honestly didn’t think I had even done it right. I was expecting all these negative reactions,” Barlow said about his first time trying cannabis. “I felt more normal than anything. I felt balanced-out.”
As of July 26, 2018, medical marijuana is legal in the state of Oklahoma.