To the editor;

As Gay Pride Month wound down in June, I found myself thinking about the first Gay Pride event I attended almost 40 years ago.

I am not even sure if we called it Gay Pride back then. We simply marched through the streets of Boston’s then very gay, still bohemian, un-gentrified South End. We then gathered on a side street in front of the now long-gone gay bar called Fritz — where we danced joyously in the street to the pulsating beats of Donna Summer, the Village People, Gloria Gaynor, KC and the Sunshine Band and the Pointer Sisters.

That celebratory atmosphere was short lived. The dark clouds of the AIDS epidemic were then gathering on the horizon and, within a few years of that fun filled dance party, tens of thousands of young gay men of my generation were dead or dying from what many doctors dubbed, “the worst death in medicine.”

In a tragically ironic way, however, the AIDS epidemic turned out to be a mixed blessing for our community.

I say that because the epidemic forced the opening of millions of closet doors that otherwise would have remained firmly shut. The opening of those closet doors, of HIV-positive and HIV-negative gay men alike, played no small role in increasing our visibility in society which, in turn, resulted in a level of acceptance by many Americans that my generation had long thought unimaginable.

But that era of acceptance, although seemingly irreversible, at least according to much of today’s mainstream media, may be coming to an end.

Dark clouds, not unlike those associated with the AIDS epidemic almost four decades ago, are once again gathering on my community’s horizon.

This time, those dark clouds are driven by politics, specifically the rise of right wing, white nationalist, faux populist, pseudo-Christian politicians and political movements in the U.S. and around the globe.

Here in the U.S., three cases regarding the rights of LGBT Americans will likely be before the Supreme Court in the very near future. One is a direct challenge to the 2015 Supreme Court decision that declared denying gay Americans the right to legally and civilly marry violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution.

Another involves employment discrimination, which is still a huge issue in nearly half of the states. An employer can legally fire an employee for being gay, or if the employer just thinks an employee is gay, and that employee has no legal recourse in those states.

Given the nature of today’s right-wing, conservative-dominated Supreme Court, and the growing disdain its most ideological members have for legal precedents, there is no guarantee the coming decisions will be in the best interests of the LGBT community.

Even more troubling, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has been tracking public attitudes toward the LGBT community for several years now. Their tracking and polling revealed a disturbing and steady decrease in support for LGBT Americans and our rights over the last five years. Most alarming of all — that decrease in support is most prevalent among Americans aged 18 to 34.

As faux-populist, right-wing, pseudo-Christian political movements come to power in other countries like Poland, Italy, Brazil, Hungary, the Philippines, Argentina, Chile and Hungary; as these movements gain strength, even in places like Costa Rica, the LGBT community is increasingly a target for scapegoating and harassment.

Costa Rica, for example, experienced a nationwide strike by the truck drivers’ union throughout June and into July. The strike brought much of the country to a standstill.

The losing candidate in the last presidential election, a right-wing, anti-gay, fundamentalist Christian politician named Fabricio Alvarado, expressed his support for the strikers by denouncing the “elites” in government who Alvarado claims are destroying Costa Rica’s working and middle classes, along with undermining Costa Rica’s Catholic and Christian traditions by supporting the global “gay agenda.”

It worked. The leaders of the strike linked the settlement of the strike to the firing of the education minister,, Edgar Mora. Mora had implemented a school curriculum teaching tolerance and acceptance of LGBT youth, and LGBT people more broadly.

Most disturbing of all, the charismatic Alvarado mobilized hundreds of high school and college-aged students to take to the streets around the country to demand Mora’s ouster and to oppose the tolerance/diversity curriculum. Several of those demonstrations turned violent.

The trends identified in the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s polling data regarding the shifting attitudes of young Americans toward LGBT people ought to be as troubling to us as the youthful antigay demonstrations in Costa Rica.

Despite the perception that the advancement of gay rights, and the acceptance of LGBT people in the United States, is on an unstoppable forward trajectory, the reality in this right-wing, faux-populist, pseudo-Christian, white nationalist era in which we find ourselves, that acceptance may yet turn out to be more illusory than real.

Dark clouds are gathering on our community’s horizon, not just here at home but all around the globe.

To ignore them. or dismiss them as just the ranting of ignorant bigots, is not only arrogant and foolish, it is downright dangerous.

Michael Cook


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