Frank Episale is an editor, writer, educator, and theatre artist living and working in Brooklyn. He holds a BFA from New York University, an MA from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, and an MPhil from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. This is his (infrequently updated) blog. He's pretty google-able, if you'd like to know more.

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Friday
Jun282019

rage and riots, resentment and pride

I sent a slightly different version of this as a companywide email at my workplace. It seems to make sense to post it here, too (though I've cleaned up a few little errors and omissions).

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There’s a popular and appealing notion that the Stonewall riots (and they were riots) were sparked in no small part by the death of Judy Garland.

Historian Marc Stein, though, disagrees. In a number of recent interviews (see the most recent episode of Nancy), and in his book on the subject, he argues that revolutions tend to be born from a specific set of circumstances: things are, or seem to be, getting better, and then a political shift threatens that progress with a rapid reversal. What had looked like hope becomes disappointment, anxiety, despair…

And despair becomes rage.

Stein points out that things had been starting to get better for queer folks in the 60s, and then Nixon was elected. And then there was a series of killings of queer people by police. And those events spawned the disillusionment and despair that led to the rage of the Stonewall riots.

Without putting too fine a point on it, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that we are once again at an historical moment that might justify rage.

Some of you know me well enough to know that I’ve experienced my share of both grief and rage in recent years. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

Pride is a celebration, but it is a celebration born of rage. I’m proud of the rioters and the creators and the persistors. I’m proud of the artists and the iconoclasts and the lovers. I’m proud of everyone who has ever said FUCK YOU when it needed to be said. And I’m proud of everyone who has backed up that FUCK YOU with research, with compassion, and with reason.

There is a lot to be angry about in 2019. And there is a lot to be grateful for. I’m grateful for Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. I’m grateful for Troye Sivan, and Rufus Wainwright, and Tiffany Caban, for Pete Buttigieg, for Justin Vivian Bond, for Billy Porter, for Max Vernon, for Taylor Mac, for Tarell Alvin McCraney, for Lisa Krohn and Alison Bechdel, for my Aunt Marie and cousin Joy, for Amir Diwane, for Taiwan becoming the first nation in Asia to recognize marriage equality, and for so much more.

I’m grateful that I work for a company where some of my colleagues will roll their eyes at this message, but nobody’s going to fire me for it.

And I’m furious about the Pulse shootings in Orlando. I’m furious about the rates of homelessness among queer youth. I’m furious that some of the smartest, most talented, most beautiful people I’ve ever met still struggle with the trauma they experienced as they learned to articulate their queerness. I’m furious about the current political climate in Turkey, in Brazil, in China, in the Philippines, in Russia, in the United States, and in in in in in.

For those of you who find Pride weekend meaningful, I just wanted to send a message that I see you. Thank you for caring about something that probably shouldn’t matter. It matters because fearful, murderous bigots tried to kill us, and we are still here. And we are still making beautiful things. And we don’t want to have to be angry, but we will be angry for as long as we need to be.

It’s still a riot. It’s still rage. It’s also a celebration.

xo

fe


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