‘True colors’ fly again at Center after flag arson


By Tore Michaels

On an overcast and chilly afternoon last Wednesday April 21, about 200 people came together outside the L.G.B.T. Center on W. 13th St. for the unfurling of a new 20-foot-long rainbow flag. The previous Wednesday, a rainbow flag hanging on the front of the Center had been burned by one or more arsonists in the wee hours of the morning.

Since it was after hours, the building was empty at the time of the arson, and luckily there were no injuries.

The rainbow flag has long been the banner of lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual people all over the world.

For nearly a quarter of a century, the L.G.B.T. Center has been the literal center of life for people who identify as lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual in the New York City area.

The Center’s executive director, Glenda Testone, after welcoming everyone to the rally, told the story of how the staff came in on Wed., April 14, to find that a rainbow flag that had been draped across the front of the building had been torched.

“We’re here, we’re queer, and we aren’t going anywhere!” Testone said, invoking the rallying cry familiar to generations in the L.G.B.T. community.

Local politicians, both gay and straight, turned out to show their support for the Center and condemn the flag burning.

Openly gay Council Speaker Christine Quinn said, “What we are doing here today is sending a message to that coward, who is way too scared to show his or her own face, that we are not going away. We’re not going to get out of his or her face, and we are never going to be pushed out of our city.”

The Center is located in Quinn’s district, which includes Greenwich Village and Chelsea.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Councilmember Rosie Mendez also gave remarks. Mendez, who represents the East Village and Lower East Side, noted her district has also seen a rash of troubling hate crimes, mentioning a series of attacks against elderly Asian women perpetrated by a bunch of local youths, who were recently arrested.

Also speaking was Gilbert Baker, the creator of the original rainbow flag. Baker pointed out that while burning a flag is protected under the Constitution’s First Amendment, the way this arson was done might easily have caused grave damage, injury or loss of life.

The Youth Pride Choir sang two songs. They began with Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” as the new flag was unfurled, and then rocked the block with an energetic rendition of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

A letter of support from Cyndi Lauper was read to the crowd of Center supporters. The songs’ uplifting lyrics along with the words spoken by community leaders combined to create a truly powerful message.

The crowd was still enthusiastic as the rally concluded. The rain that might have ended any other outdoor event had no visibly negative impact on the event — but instead might have only helped to show the resolve of New York City’s L.G.B.T. community.