What are your reflections on the state of the LGBT movement as a whole?
The LGBT movement is in a similar place as many other social movements in this period. We’ve gone through a series of ebbs and flows over the past several years. And our ebbs and flows can’t be understood in isolation; they are a reflection of the broader political and economic moment. There have been a number of important events that have taken place over the past several years that have shaped the context in which we are working. The most well known, of course, was the legalization of same-sex marriage in some states and then the subsequent rollbacks of that legalization in places such as California and Maine. In 2008 alone, Barack Obama was elected as our first Black President, gay marriage was legalized in California and then it was quickly taken away through the passage of Proposition 8.
Late in the afternoon on June 25, several hundred gathered in City Hall Park for a rally and march in support of equality and justice for the transgender community and other gender-variant New Yorkers. The group marched from the park several blocks to One Police Plaza, the NYPD headquarters.
On Sunday, June 27, thousands upon thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people from across the country and, in some cases, from around the world, will converge on New York City’s West Village. The streets will transform into glamorous runways for larger-than-life drag queens and ballroom voguers. Rainbow flags will be our superhero capes, and glitter will abound — everywhere. Like San Francisco’s Castro District, the West Village will hold its head high, proudly declaring itself one of the greatest Gay Wonders of the World and the birthplace of a national gay liberation movement that has fueled more than 40 years of L.G.B.T.Q. organizing, advocacy and activism.
Putting on the moves and doing some fierce vogueing at FIERCE’s Global Warming Ball on the artificial turf at the Charles St. Pier, just north of the Christopher St. Pier, last year.
The skies were ominous and the turnout moderate on Monday, but the rally’s speakers—which included Sandra Bernhard, Lt. Dan Choi, City Council member Daniel Dromm, Desiree Marshall of FIERCE! and Ali Forney Center director Carl Siciliano—were fired up and fierce.
Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment—or FIERCE—an organization devoted to serving NYC’s queer youth, celebrated its first decade of existence last week with an appropriately fabulous soiree at Highline Ballroom. Performers including Meshell Ndegeocello, Staceyann Chin, House of Ladosha and Toshi Reagon & Big Lovely all saluted FIERCE’s achievements over the past ten years, and a slide show of the kids in action left the room misty-eyed.
When FIERCE—Fabulous Independent Educated Radicals for Community Empowerment—was formed a decade ago, the handful of queer teens behind it didn’t have a clear sense of its direction. But what they lacked in organizational skills, they made up for with passion. Their efforts will be celebrated at a ten-year anniversary “Gayla” this week.
We didn’t have a space; we didn’t have a vision. We just knew we wanted our voices heard,” recalls cofounder Krystal Portalatin, 27, now FIERCE’s youth development and operations director. Back then, she was among the strong-willed kids, most from outer boroughs, who hung around the Christopher Street Pier and had plenty to shout about—harassment by police, rejection by their families and homelessness, just for starters. So they began meeting anywhere they could to brainstorm about creating positive change for LGBT youths of color. Their main aim was to keep the pier as a gathering place, despite protests from some West Village residents.