West Hollywood’s Gay Pride Fading?

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Photo Credit: Jon Viscott

Is West Hollywood’s Gay Pride Fading Like Its Rainbow Crosswalks?

by Michael Foley

Rainbow Crosswalk 2012 / Photo Credit: Jon Viscott

“We are a community full of pride, and the Rainbow Crosswalks allow us to display our pride in the streets – at an intersection that has historic significance. I am truly pleased to dedicate these iconic crosswalks to the LGBTQ community as a symbol of being out and proud.” Abbe Land.

“The incorporation of the LGBTQ rainbow into the infrastructure of our city is meaningful and important not just to residents, but to folks from around the world. We will dedicate these crosswalks knowing that this is a symbol that LGBTQ people from around the world know, and it is an invitation to everyone to come home and experience OUR WEHO.” John D’Amico.

“The intersection of Santa Monica and San Vicente Boulevards is the place where we gathered to protest government oppression, mourned our dead and celebrated our journey to liberty. As such, it is a touchstone for the international LGBT community to remind us of our history and declare these four corners “home.” John Duran.

Powerful words… Moving in fact… But words are long forgotten since they were uttered way back in 2012. Those rainbow crosswalks, now worn, sun-bleached and weather-beaten, are on the verge of vanishing. Why? It certainly can’t be the money. After all, the city is spending 90 million ($) on Phase II of renovations for West Hollywood Park (SERIOUSLY!).

Rainbow Crosswalk 2017 / Photo Credit: Jon Viscott

The City of West Hollywood also recently sprang for an automated parking garage to the tune of 16 million ($). They’ve allowed development to EXPLODE in our already overcrowded city creating millions in extra tax revenue (and nightmare traffic scenarios, but I digress). So, I ask again. Why no new paint job? Why were monies never put aside for the upkeep and maintenance of these two symbols of unity, perseverance, acceptance and love? And, if they were, why haven’t they been spent? What is the city waiting for?

Now I know some of you reading this may be saying, “What’s the big deal? It’s two crosswalks!” but hear me out because I believe it’s about so much more than just crosswalks. To me, those crosswalks are a metaphor for the vanishing footprint of the LGBT Community inWest Hollywood.

Gay owned and operated businesses have all but disappeared because of skyrocketing retail rental prices and “Boystown” has basically dwindled down to just a small handful of bars (although judging by the bars on the weekend even that’s up for debate). And don’t get me wrong, integration and gentrification are incredibly important, but this is a small corner of a very big world where young men and women used to be able to come and feel as if they belonged (I know because I was one of those young men).

Rents were reasonable. Someone who made a living wage could actually afford to live here. Now? Not so much. Rent on even the smallest of living spaces is nothing short of obscene. West Hollywood is rapidly turning into Beverly Hills East and from where I sit that seems to be perfectly fine with our cities politicians. But you know what guys? It’s really not, and here are a few stark reminders for ‘the powers that be’ about the importance of a place like West Hollywood and the dire need to preserve its legacy:
• Due to the current occupant of The White House, “Hate Crimes” are on the rise. Bigots everywhere have been emboldened and our youth is suffering. Trans deaths are spiking and there is no one in government who has their backs! They need an AFFORDABLE West Hollywood!
• North Carolina and virtually every other Southern State is working overtime to overturn Marriage Equality. Loving couples from those states need the option of an AFFORDABLE West Hollywood.
• Chechnya has opened concentration camps and military police are torturing and killing our LGBT brothers and sisters! Countries in Africa and the Middle East are also guilty of the same atrocities! People need to see who we are, and what we stand for, and know they will always have a place HERE, within our borders, to be who they are!
• There are thousands of places in our own country where people have to live in shame and hide who they were born to be for fear of being bullied or abused. They need to know our doors are open and arms spread wide when they finally get the courage to stand in their own light.

Now more than ever, I believe we need to lay claim to what little space we have and hold onto it for all we are worth. This really is about so much more than just 2 crosswalks. It’s about saving a city that has been a beacon of hope for people around the world. It’s about maintaining our heritage and never letting people forget that West Hollywood is now and always will be a safe place for the LGBT Community.

Save our crosswalks and let them be a constant reminder of the people who built this city. But more importantly, save West Hollywood. Our community is counting on us!

Michael Foley
www.michaelfoleyauthor.com