(Opinion): Within the past year, not only have we seen the demise of DOMA and Proposition 8 but we also watched as eight states legalized same-sex marriage. The fight for equal rights is far from over. But has this mainstream fight for equal rights taken its toll on the gay community? 44 years ago, the marginalized yet resilient gay community that existed in the West Village of New York City stood up and fought back against the local law enforcement. These nights of retaliation gave birth to the modern gay rights movement. The tightknit gay community that inhabited the West Village in 1969 sought refuge in each other and in the local hangouts such as the Stonewall Inn. Now, steps away from where the Stonewall uprising took place, the homeless youth of the gay community struggle to find shelter and support. A new documentary following three LGBTQ homeless youth of color called “Pier Kids: The Life” aims to show the inequalities that still plague society despite its recent progress.
Direction Elegance Bratton was kicked out of his home at the age of sixteen. Upon his arrival in New York, he followed a group of gay African-American males to Christopher Street. It was here that Bratton found his spiritual home. His film follows the struggles of Krystal, DeSean and Casper. Each of these individuals became a part of the community at the pier and on Christopher Street. The overwhelming feeling of acceptance and the ability to be loved for who you are gave salvation to each. This Elysium has given a sense of belonging to countless LGBTQ individuals all the way back to before Stonewall. While the struggles back 40 years ago may have looked a little different, the same society beset by inequalities rules the area with an iron fist.
Homelessness within the gay community is nothing new. Many of the participants in the Stonewall uprising were pushed out of their homes due to their sexual orientation and found safety in the area around Christopher Street. Bratton films the lives of three people on these same streets today. Studies indicate that around 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ and the majority of these youth have been forced out of their home because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Christopher Street has served as a safe haven to many LGBTQ youth with no place to go. Much of the recent struggle with the homeless LGBTQ youth comes from the gentrification of the Village and the unjust treatment of these individuals by both the police and society.
Bratton aims to inform people of the inequalities that still plague the gay rights movement today. While the modern mainstream movements have been successful, they show the LGBTQ community in a heteronormative light. The most recent mainstream movements revolving around gay marriage tend to depict wealthy, white, gay men looking to have a normal family. As long as we continue feeding this social stratification, the gay rights movement will not be completely successful.
Homelessness in LGBTQ youth is just one of the many issues in today’s LGBTQ community. Bratton highlights the inequalities shown in the gay rights movements while he helps guide the future generations of LGBTQ youth of color to a more holistic understanding of the situation and to better living. With his project fully funded on Kickstarter a few weeks ago, Bratton and his crew will be working on the film in the upcoming months. The passionate fighters of the Stonewall uprising fought back against this inequality to ensure a safe spot for all in the gay community. With the growing inequalities in this society stratified along the lines of race, class, gender and sexual orientation, Bratton’s vision may help remind us to live life with a sense of parity.
By: Peter Lyon