Monday, June 13, 2016

Now We Have Seen The Epitome of Anti-Gay Hatred

Here's an excerpt from an excellent article written by Rich Juzwiak about the mass shooting at the gay Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  

Now We Have Seen The Epitome of Anti-Gay Hatred:
Before Sunday morning, the event that had the grave distinction of being the largest massacre of gay people in American history occurred June 24, 1973, at the Up Stairs Lounge in New Orleans. A fire, which a police and fire investigation eventually deemed arson, killed 32 people during a Sunday beer blast after a church service had been held in the space. The details contain gruesome stuff like bodies being melted together, as well as disgustingly sad anecdotes of love and failed heroism. Bartender Buddy Rasmussen successfully led a group of about 20 men out of a hidden fire exit onto the bar’s roof that provided safe access to the ground. Among the group was a man named George Mitchell. According to Jim Downs’s Stand By Me: The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation:
In the midst of the chaos, George Mitchell realized that his partner, Louis Horace Broussard, was not among this small group of survivors. He scanned the faces, screamed Horace’s name, and ran back into the fire. His body was later found next to Broussard’s. 
The tragedy had a galvanizing effect on some—Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the LGBT-inclusive Metropolitan Community Church (those congregated at Up Stairs were members of that church) and organizer of an Up Stairs Lounge memorial, said years later that the “events in the following days helped to pull the community together and strengthened the resolve of the national gay equality movement…Out of the terrible, terrible tragedy grew a sense of empowerment for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered [sic] persons.”

It is likely that you are unfamiliar with this story; so was I until I read Downs’s above-quoted book earlier this year. The reason this tragedy goes unremembered is that gay history isn’t really taught in schools, nor does it hold much priority in American culture (the movie Stonewall about sums up our sorry state of affairs). The larger straight world hasn’t shown much interest in these narratives.

This weekend in Orlando, we got our indelible cultural narrative. Granted, things are much different now than they were 43 years ago. In no particular order: LGBT people have more visibility, the extent to which people of color are under attack as a matter of course is more apparent than ever, the argument over gun control keeps getting louder, “terrorism” is among our go-to cultural boogeymen, and a media that benefits greatly from mass shooters follows them closely. All of these factors have intersected in a tragedy that reads like the plot of an ingenious novel devised to expose the weakness and hatred of the right. This situation presents a dilemma for the bigot—who to root for? The terrorist is American (albeit of Afghani descent and ISIS sympathy), and the targets are a bunch of queer people, many of them Latino (judging by their names and that Pulse was hosting its weekly Latin Night), enjoying a night of actively being queer. It turns out the right has more in common with ISIS than it previously wanted to admit. To cope, Republicans have simplified the matter by simply erasing the fact that LGBT people were targeted from their responses.