Last year, we posted a piece “Fort Lauderdale Gives No Lip Service When It Comes To LGBTQ Community” with a teaser title of Wilton Manors & Fort Lauderdale Just Get It – The Way Life Should Be. In the post, we highlighted the Florida AIDS Walk, performances by transgender model Laith Ashley and drag icon Miss Coco Peru, along with a heavy nod to the Bears in the Alley event. Fort Lauderdale / Wilton Manors was hopping with Queer events everywhere that weekend. After that piece went live, we received a couple reader emails telling us to, “Stop glorifying Florida” and “How dare you write a fluff piece about that state?!”
Am I a bad and evil gay for choosing to live in Florida? Am I horrible for enjoying living in the most active and vibrant gay area of Florida, in the South, and arguably in the whole United States? Are we being arrogant and ignorant by living here and vacationing here? Others say we should move out and we should try to live a better life somewhere else away from the red state politics DeSantis is brewing. And then there are those that say boycott, boycott, boycott. I am especially proud that Greater Fort Lauderdale has been a destination that has truly led the way in their commitment in marketing to the LGBTQ community. As they say they are a destination that truly Welcomes Everyone Under The Sun.
Living in Fort Lauderdale and steps from Wilton Manors, I am told all the time that I live in paradise… and then I’m immediately asked when my guest room is available. And I love that as I had company from the beginning of February to just last week and will have many more visits throughout the year. Friends and family come here for the weather, the beaches, but also the gay culture, acceptance, nightlife, and the boys. Visitors love experiencing what I experience all the time; the ability to walk around Wilton Manors, go into any restaurant or business in Fort Lauderdale and not worry about being perceived negatively as LGBTQ+. I don’t try to hide that I am gay as I sometimes feel I need to do when visiting other cities for here I am just me when out in public, they way it should be. But I’m often reminded about this great way of life when friends bring up how loving and welcome the community, the people, the cities are here in the Greater Fort Lauderdale area. And yes, sometimes when walking with fellow Southern Floridians, we do stop, smile, and say, wow, we’re lucky.
I was just about to schedule this post to go live on Thursday April 13, 2023 and then we saw something pop up in our news feed. Equality Florida Issues Advisory Warning For Travel. It incorporates items mentioned above and elaborates on other laws and policies passed by the DeSantis Fascist regime. The Advisory’s Conclusion reads:
Taken in their totality, Florida’s slate of laws and policies targeting basic freedoms and rights pose a serious risk to the health and safety of those traveling to the state. We regret that these [political] attacks have already led many to flee the state and are driving others to consider relocation. And, in a state whose economy is fueled by visitors from around the world, it is with great sadness that Equality Florida has had to take the extraordinary step of responding to inquiries by issuing an official advisory warning about the risks of travel to the state.
Is this the right move? We need to support Queer destinations whose communities depend on the LGBTQ tourist, not isolate them.
Yes, we know about DeSantis in this city, this state, and across the nation. We are not blind to the pungent hate that he is spewing from Tallahassee, Floriduh’s capital. And yes, we do have rose and rainbow-colored glasses to match our pride outfits, but we are not wearing them when we consider the anti-woke / pro-stupid despot governor.
The argument about boycotting Florida is short sighted. If that were the case, we would need to boycott about half the states in the nation as law after anti-LGBTQ law are being proposed across the US. Recently, NBCNews said that even California, the Qween State when it comes to banning travel may end this practice (California may end travel ban to states with anti-LGBTQ laws).
If we had reacted with quick bans every time we as a community faced adversity, Stonewall would have been forgotten just like all the other Queer protests before it. Stonewall was a step forward for our community and we celebrate the queer icons tied with the events in June 1969, but what we also must remember is that Stonewall became the pinnacle moment in our Queer history because of the ERCHO. We have Stonewall today because at its November 1969 meeting in Philadelphia, the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations voted for a march to be held in New York City the following year to commemorate the ”spontaneous demonstrations on Christopher Street.” There was no boycott planned because of the adversity of Stonewall. As a result of the measure, the first Christopher Street Liberation Day demonstrations took place in June 1970, with coordinated events in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Imagine, if instead, ERCHO decided New York City was a lost cause and didn’t go back and told all to boycott the unsafe and rotten Big Apple.
The final part of the conclusion to Equality Florida Issues Advisory Warning For Travel reads:
It is our hope that those Floridians who can, will stay and engage more deeply in the fight against the state’s all-out assaults on democracy and freedom. This moment calls for a grassroots movement in defense of justice and equality for all — so that we can turn back the tide of right wing authoritarianism, recommit to building a state that is safe and open to all, and once again celebrate Florida as a free state.
So, a little mixed message from Equality Florida. Don’t visit, if you can leave, leave, but if you can stay and fight, then fight. All of this just days before Miami Beach Pride this weekend, which we will be attending.
Instead of boycotting half the nation, we need to highlight our Queer Havens in these politically purple and red states. We need to be seen living our authentic selves, happy lives, equal lives. Anti-woke policies embraced by a disgraced former teacher cannot deter us from living our lives to the fullest. And if they are a hinderance, there is one lesson that history does teach us that we need to remember, small loud men end up in bad predicaments when society realizes they are just small loud men.
We need to continue our bright, bold, and beautiful lives as an out and proud celebration of existence. We will keep sharing positive Queer stories from Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors, and we will visit other areas of the nation and world and highlight those Queer Havens that deserve the attention for the fight they are battling as they need all our support. We all need to seek out those places that celebrate us, where we can be us. They need to stay thriving so we can thrive, too.