Today was a bright sunny afternoon in New York’s Greenwich Village. But the mood was less than sunny at the site of the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street. A symbol (and landmark) of the gay rights movement in the United States, last year saw the Stonewall host a huge party to celebrate the legality of gay marriage passed by the Supreme Court. Today people are gathering here for a much sadder reason: the Stonewall has become a memorial for the 49 young souls who were gunned down at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
A few nights ago, the LGBT community turned out in the hundreds for a vigil to remember the victims of the shooting, read their names, light candles, mourn, and cry out together, as they did here in the riots of 1969: “Enough!” Enough of the hate that is given sanction by certain so-called leaders. Enough of the assault weapons that are so easily purchased by even the most mentally disturbed among us. Enough of a pervasive societal anti-gay prejudice that pressures young people to hide who they are, hate themselves, and leave home. Or sometimes to be forced to leave home by those who are supposed to protect them; their families. The causes of hate are many, and the shooter had several to his credit: he claimed allegiance to ISIS, he beat his wife, he was homo-phobic, and as it turns out, he may have been a self-loathing closeted homosexual as well. I’ve heard the mantra enough times already: guns don’t kill people, people kill people. But really, knowing that sometimes people kill people, why make assault weapons so available? I will never understand the logic, or the blindness that can’t see the insanity of that position.
As the politicians and talking heads debate these issues on television, the people of the LGBT community keep coming to Stonewall. They stand and stare, silently, sometimes hugging each other, sometimes crying. People walk by and add flowers and candles to the shrine in front of the bar. An employee comes out with a large rainbow flag to lay on the front stoop, and a trans gender entertainer steps over it gingerly to go to work. Hand painted signs preach love over hate, and solidarity with the people of Orlando. One young man stands there for two hours, not moving, just looking into the display of flowers and lit candles.
I hope that we can all see the light soon, before the darkness takes over.
For a beautiful reportage of the vigil in New York City on Monday night, visit my friend Melanie’s blog post HERE.