I have a confession to make: I missed my hometown Equality Rally for Unity and Pride in Fort Lauderdale. I was on my way south from gay summer camp when I got caught in a massive tie-up that stopped my car for hours — no surprise to all who have to drive on I-95 from Jacksonville and Miami. Looking back, I could have gone to the rally in Nashville, which was close to the camp, or even to the National March in Washington, D.C. Or, I could have gone to the rally in West Palm Beach, had I known about it. But I tried to make it home on time, and I failed.
Though I did not attend an Equality Rally, I heard about the rallies from participants and from media reports. Several hundred people gathered at Huizenga Plaza in the name of unity and pride. In some respects, they were united. Participants protested against the political backlash brought about by the Trump Administration; and they mourned the 49 lives lost the year before at the Pulse Nightclub massacre. In other matters, however, there was division. Activists from the Food Not Bombs group protested the presence of U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and attacked Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler for his campaign against the homeless. Bobby Henry, owner of the African-American newspaper The Westside Gazette, was correct when he urged participants, who gathered together in the name of unity, to practice what they preached.
Fort Lauderdale was not the only city where dissent and division put a damper on the Pride celebrations. In Washington, D.C. the Capital Pride Parade, held a day before the National March, was interrupted by members of the group No Justice No Pride, who protested Capital Pride’s lack of board diversity, its reliance on corporate sponsors, and the presence of the Metropolitan Police Department, notorious for its brutal treatment of racial minorities. In Philadelphia, some palefaces were startled by the appearance of a new rainbow flag that contained black and brown stripes. The flag was created as a means to combat racism and to make LGBTQ people of color more visible. In Los Angeles, some who enjoyed that city’s annual Pride parades were upset when it was replaced by a more politically-focused #ResistMarch that included resistance groups like Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and Black Lives Matter. The National March itself was criticized and boycotted by the Log Cabin Republicans, which is not surprising since the event was billed as an anti-Trump protest.
March organizers and participants made much of uniting our community. Though we are willing to come together for Pride parades and rallies, the fact is that we not united. We have nothing in common but our unorthodox sexual orientation or our transgressive gender identity. We are divided by our race, sex, age, religion, HIV status, physical or mental ability, health, wealth, education level and/or immigration status, among other things. And we are divided by our politics — especially in a country that is as politically divided as ours is today. And there is no equality. The standard of living of a poor, HIV positive, transgender woman of color is different than the standard of living of an affluent, white, married man or woman. This is a fact that no Equality March or Rally for Unity and Pride can deny.
Even within subgroups, we have divisions. Take my own example, as a gay member of the Latinx community. I was born in Havana, and my surname is Monteagudo, so I am obviously Latino. But I am also a light-skinned man of European descent; and my family and I benefited from the U.S. government’s unusual leniency and generosity extended towards Cuban refugees in the 1960s. What do I have in common with a poor, dark-skinned Mexican or Central American trying to enter this country against the might of an anti-immigrant Trump administration? Growing up in Miami, a city with a large Cuban-American community, I never experienced racism, though I knew some others who did. If I experienced any prejudice, it was from other Cuban-Americans on account of my gay sexual orientation. Thus, as time went by, I drifted away from other Cubans, except for my blood relatives. Today, most of my close friendships are with gay men of Eastern European Jewish descent — my two late partners were Ashkenazi, as is the man that I am currently dating — who are also politically progressive. To be honest, I would rather spend time with a furry Jewish bear who is a Democrat than with Marco Rubio.
We need to unite. The stakes are too big; and our enemies are too powerful. We must work together against the forces that seek to destroy us or dehumanize us. At the same time, we must recognize and accept our differences and the individual issues that are important to each one of us. You are you and I am who I am; and no call for unity or equality will hide that fact.