On the 9th of August, GLOV (Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence) organized a “safety walk” in response to the recent beatings of two men at Lincoln and T sts NW by three men yelling homophobic slurs.
The march itself got quite a bit of neighborhood support from folks who did not hear the speakers and are themselves fed-up with such things as muggings and random street crimes. The march was a spirited and absolutely necessary response to yet another in DC’s massive rise in anti-Gay attacks. When people are beaten up for their sexuality, there must always be an immediate and overwhelming response.
Diversity of participants of the rallies and march as a whole was representative of the overall DC population, except for the consipcious absence of two key groups:
The “Occupy Queers” who marched in strength in March were absent, as were representatives of the transgender community. Anti-Trans violence has gotten so bad that most murders of Trans folks are ignored by police, and they were present on March 20. This time Queer and Trans folks were absent, ceding the stage to those who did show up.
On the other hand, a couple of speeches at both the pre-march rally outside Big Bear at 1st and R sts NW and at the site of the crime at T and Lincoln Sts NW bore an additional message: We are Gay, we are changing your neighborhood, and youy’d better get used to it. That too is a form of mugging-essentially taking not someone’s wallet, but their HOME by jacking up neighborhood rents, bringing in housing inspectors, and the usual tactics of gentrification. This is probably the work of upscale Gay men pushed east by even wealthier monagamous Gay men or straight men. Almost everything in DC, from gay clubs to sex workers, has been pushed east by a form of multilevel “chain gentrification.”
The keynote speaker wore a suit and tie, and another speaker at the final rally denounced people “doing things in alleys”-a direct attack on the very roots the whole GLBT community came from! I was reminded of seeing a Native American speaker in a suit with his hair cut off singing the praises of uranium mining, gas fracking, and tar sands mining as much as anything else.
The driving force behind this seems to be a deliberate decision by DC government going back to 1986 to break up concentrations of Gay nightlife, dispersing GLBT folks throughout the city. It began with a failed 1986 bill to require consent of all residents within 1,000 feet for strip joints (meaning Gay ones like the Chesapeake House, La Cage Aux Follies, etc) to have a liquor license. The bill was proposed by John Ray, who was instantly condemned by the GLBT leadership of that time. Later proposals for a 600 foot radius and an M st “entertainment district” gave birth to the “voluntary agreements” that have crippled DC nightlife, and to the plan to break up concentrations of Gay clubs by force.
Gay clubs have been dispersed into front-line communiites where outsiders are NOT welcome due to the known threat that new residents would bring. Those who already hate GLBT folks, and anti-Gay ministers as well, are empowered by the tension that results. The result has been a massive and overwhelming rise in crimes against all GLBT folks, not just upscale men in suits and ties. I have had to defend myself on the streets more times in the last year than the previous five years, for instance. One of the speakers claimed DC is now the worst city in the nation for anti-Gay violence, with a massive rise in attacks in just one year, and an 82% increase in the last few years.
Needless to say, this will not be stopped by saying “we are changing your neighborhood, get used to it.”