Yesterday I had a lot of fun writing and posting a column about the new musical video that the New York Gays Against Guns group has put up on YouTube. So in the interests of giving everyone equal opportunity to strut their stuff on my website, I’m going to use this column to promote another gay event on gun violence, in this case a concert to benefit the Newtown Action Alliance which will take place this coming Monday, February 20 in New York.
But this concert isn’t being held at just any old theater or concert hall; it’s going to happen at The Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in the heart of Greenwich Village, and I can’t tell you the memories that the Stonewall brings back to me. Because it was a police raid of this gay bar on June 28, 1969, that precipitated a bunch of spontaneous demonstrations (referred to by the denizens of law and order as ‘riots’) that probably marked the public emergence of the ‘gay rights’ movement and led to the triumphs (and still some frustrations) experienced by the LGBTQ community today.
In 1993 I was in San Francisco on business, it was a Friday evening and I was sick of going back to the Beverly Hills Hotel to eat yet one more Marriott-catered meal. So I asked someone where I could get a really good, home-cooked meal with some interesting conversation to boot, and he told me to go to the gay and lesbian synagogue in the Castro district which had a pot-luck dinner after the service every Friday night. So there I am after the service, standing in front of this great, pot-luck buffet, eating my head off and talking to whomever would talk to me. And one of my conversations was with a guy who had moved out to San Francisco from Brooklyn because, as he told me, his parents were Orthodox and he couldn’t break their hearts by staying in New York and coming out gay. He told me that even though he had to entirely remake his life with a certain amount of anxiety and fear, he had ultimately done the right thing.
Later that evening as I was back at my hotel I wondered how many people were like this guy, born before mainstream culture was accepting of gays, having to live a shadow life or change everything in order to come out. What did Obergefell v. Hodges mean to someone like him? It’s a question I ask myself from time to time but the answer tells me that just because something is difficult, just because progress seems to be interminably slow, don’t ever assume that things won’t change. And this is how we have to think about ending gun violence – things can change.
Which is why I’m so happy that the concert for Newtown is taking place at the Stonewall Inn. And what a concert it’s going to be. Dig this: Cate Blanchett’s the headliner in what they are calling a ‘Broadway Review,’ and Jason Hayes, who put together the Disarm Hate rally in DC last year, will also be working this gig. I don’t know the rest of the lineup but what’s the difference? It’s another opportunity to let the world know that gun violence, like gay rights, isn’t something to be swept into the closet and never discussed, which is what Gun-nut Nation hopes to occur.
Because the truth is that reason that gun violence continues to plague our communities is because those of us who want to reduce it don’t make enough noise. Now don’t get me wrong. The gun violence prevention (GVP) community works very hard and many GVP advocates have devoted their lives and their energies to pushing GVP issues to the fore. But what made LGBTQ a mainstream issue was when the mainstream decided to support the cause. And GVP needs to engage more folks from the mainstream in order to win their fight.
MONDAY – SEPTEMBER 20 – THE STONEWALL – GREENWICH STREET – NEW YORK