In an evening filled with tear-inducing reactions to the killing of 49 people at an Orlando gay bar, the most powerful speech of Logo’s Trailblazer Honors, which aired Saturday night, arrived in the inimitable voice of Harvey Fierstein.
"These last two weeks have been very hard for all of us, especially for gay people,” Fierstein said, accepting an award for his career as an out gay man on Broadway and in Hollywood. “As soon as we heard the news we knew who took out that gun and shot … He took a gun to prove he was a man, and destroyed hundreds of lives. It wasn't just 49 dead people. All of those other people that were shot—all of their friends, all of their families' lives destroyed. Because someone told him he could not be him."
As soon as we heard the news we knew: Fierstein’s comment gets at the thudding feeling that many felt upon seeing the headlines about Pulse nightclub. What had happened was not, in fact, the unthinkable. It was a particular grand display of something that has been thought about time and again—the awful inevitability of violence against queer people by people raised to hate them, even or especially by those who may have been one of them.
Logo is Viacom’s LGBT-focused TV network, and its yearly Trailblazer Honors would seem to have an impossibly wide mission: a queer State of the Union, Hall of Fame, and Oscars in one. The network’s current flagship program, RuPaul’s Drag Race, is a celebration of gay fabulousness and fantasy, peppered with only occasional references to trauma and danger that helped forge its aesthetic. The Trailblazer Honors totally flipped that dynamic, as is probably right both in light of Orlando and in light of the facts of LGBT history. It ceremonially ratified the recent bloody reminder that, even in the era of so many triumphs for queer rights, being a sexual minority means being bound to the potential for danger and persecution.