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LGBTQ politicians will not save us

ACT UP NY installation in Fire Island

Pride is still a protest, especially when Pride takes place during a genocide. On the morning of June 2nd, ACT UP NY continued its work to fight pinwashing and call out the failures of mainstream LGBTQ organizations when it comes to Palestine with an action at Fire Island’s Trailblazer’s Park.

The Fire Island Pines Property Owners Association (FIPPOA) established the park as a permanent public space meant to honor queer and trans heroes with a stage of flags bearing their faces. On June 1, a new flag dedicated to Ritchie Torres, the US Representative for New York’s 15th Congressional District, was installed.

Although Torres is openly gay, he is also a loud and proud Zionist and has supported the power of the NYPD in his district, even as he claims to be in favor of police reform. FIPPOA’s decision to honor Torres as a “pioneer” is based on the mistaken idea that one’s “representation” and identities are the only indicators of progress and radical change. The fact that Torres is technically the first gay public official in the Bronx is apparently worthy of celebration and heroic honor in the eyes of FIPPOA. Never mind that his alliances with the NYPD in his home district and the IDF abroad are against everything that true queer liberation stands for.

SILENCE = DEATH

Alexa Wilkinson via ACT UP NY

ACT UP NY made its voice heard on the matter, raising two flags of its own in the park: one for Cecilia Gentili, the trans activist, artist and true trailblazer who died in February, and one for queer Palestinians, symbolized by ACT UP. NY’S SILENCE = DEATH watermelon sign. The watermelon flag was flown in front of an existing ACT UP flag, although ACT UP NY notes that they were never approached by FIPPOA to be honored at the ceremony in the first place. The purpose of installing these two alternate flags was to “rehabilitate the integrity of Trailblazers Park,” according to ACT UP NY.

By placing the watermelon version of the SILENCE = DEATH image in front of the existing ACT UP flag hanging from FIPPOA, ACT UP NY pays homage to the organization’s history while expanding its legacy to include the current struggle against Israel’s pinkwashing, occupation and genocide. . This move effectively recontextualizes the park as one that centers Palestinian liberation in its supposed message of LGBTQ+ progress and pioneering. ACT UP NY members removed the flag for Ritchie Torres to replace it with the flag for Cecilia, who was one of the many LGBTQ activists who were arrested at the Grand Central Station action organized by Jewish Voice for Peace on October 27, 2023 along with others members. ACT UP leaders.

Cecilia Gentili at Trailblazers Park in Fire Island

Alexa Wilkinson via ACT UP NY

Cecilia Gentili represents the kind of true opening efforts that the park is supposed to commemorate. “ACT UP NY is disappointed in FIPPOA for choosing to invoke our organization’s name without consulting or informing us,” reads a press release issued by ACT UP NY. “By not contacting us, they have limited our organization’s work to the past, using our name and image as shorthand for Queer activism, without sharing any of the radical values ​​of today’s activists.”

ACT UP’s struggle is not a thing of the past. The organization stated that its current struggle is against war and genocide throughout the world. Torres, meanwhile, took to Twitter to double down on his Zionism and make wild and racist claims about queer Palestinians that are easily debunked. “These activists are openly aligning themselves with Hamas,” Torres wrote of ACT UP NY. “Has it ever occurred to them that Hamas is a barbaric oppressor of queer Palestinians? That a career Palestinian is much freer and safer in Israel than in a Hamas-run Gaza Strip.”

There is no evidence to support Torres’ claim that queer Palestinians would be safer in Israel, a place they don’t even have access to during the current genocide and had limited access to before October 2023 due to apartheid. Israel relies on pinwashing to produce Western consent for the destruction of Palestine and violence against the Palestinian people. Invoking Hamas violence against Palestinians when over 35,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel since October 2023 is an absurd diversion when it is clearly based on evidence that currently and historically the greatest threat to security and of Palestinian life is the IDF.

In addition to his Zionist and Palestinian views, Torres has been an obstacle to progress in his own district, speaking out against efforts to defund the police at a time when his own constituents are facing widespread police brutality. Having LGBTQ+ politicians in office does not always lead to queer and trans progress. With Torres, we see this on both a local and global scale. Words like “road plotter” lose their entire meaning when applied to people like Torres, who, through his words and legislative actions, openly supports genocide. Being openly gay doesn’t negate any of this. As queer people, we should be outraged and dismayed that a politician who claims to support LGBTQ rights actively condemns ACT UP NY, an organization that has been at the forefront of one of the most important political movements in LGBTQ history. This Pride, we shouldn’t just turn to politicians. We should look at the activists who make the real market.

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