There was a nice article in the Sun-Sentinel earlier this week about how the Mayor and Board of Commissioners of Wilton Manors had directed city staff to find an appropriate location within the city to fly the rainbow flag permanently. I hoped that my neighbors who had shared their concerns over the flying of the flag in front of City Hall saw the article and that it would offer them some reassurance that they weren’t being rejected for being not-gay. I understood their feelings. More than once in the past week or so I have heard or read statements along the lines of, “It’s like they want to get rid of us.” I have felt that way a time or two, myself, but, sloughed it off as me being too sensitive.
So, there I was, flipping through the online edition of the South Florida Gay News this morning, and on page 2, above the Table of Contents, the headline read “Wilton Manors City Commission Votes To Fly Rainbow Flag Permanently.” There were little photos of individuals with little quotes under them, so I zoomed in to see what folks had to say.
RJ Petrucci: “Yes the WM community should have an incredible favorable bias celebrating the gay residents and tourists that turned the ghetto slum of 1995 into a world famous upscale vacation destination in 2015.”
And, David Mann: “Str8s have the whole country to feel comfortable in; Wilton Manors gays have a few miles of city block.”
I read those quotations a couple more times, just to make sure I was understanding what was said. And, then, I realized that my heart hurt.
I’ve lived in Wilton Manors since April 1987. It wasn’t a “ghetto slum” then, or I wouldn’t have bought a home here. It was a perfect neighborhood for a family with kids. The elementary and high schools were within walking distance and Hagen Park was a block away. Instead of bars and restaurants lining Wilton Drive, there was a Junior League thrift store, an office supply store, a hair salon, an exercise studio, the Piggly Wiggly store, and Wings 'n Things, along with many other small businesses, all providing services to those of us who lived here. It wasn’t a slum. It was a small town in Florida.
And, as for us “str8ts” having the “whole country to feel comfortable in … “ I’ve been here 28 years. Where the heck am I going to go? I have invested nearly half my life in this city, as have many of my other not-gay neighbors. Where could we possibly go after all this time and “feel comfortable?” What a thoughtless comment that is ...
The word “divisive” was reportedly bandied about during the commission meeting when the decision was made to find a place for the rainbow flag. Now, I understand why. Those gay property owners who think they have somehow saved our city need to realize that all the “str8ts” who accepted them when they came here are as much a part of the city’s revitalization as they are.
I like the word “diversity” much more than I like that word, “divisive.” We're each one different, for sure, but, we're all human beings. It takes all of us, working together, to make our little island city a place of peace and prosperity. I sincerely hope a rainbow flag doesn’t spoil it.