Wilton Manors is one of America’s great gay villages. Every day and night, hordes of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, trans people and allies, whether residents or visitors, can be seen walking, running, skating, riding, driving, or just standing still in the miracle mile we know as Wilton Drive. In this gayborhood, same-sex couples hold hands without fear of repercussion and people of all ages, races and genders feel free to be themselves. Though Wilton Manors is not without incidents of crime or hatred, all in all, it is as close to a queer paradise as we have on this earth.
Sadly, as good as the Island City is to us and to those who like us, it is but an oasis of tolerance and acceptance within a state that is rapidly becoming less tolerant and less accepting. On Wilton Drive, gay or lesbian couples can kiss and hold hands with impunity. Only a few miles north or south or west, same-sex kissing or hand-holding is not recommended. Wilton Manors is not unique in this reality. Cities like Atlanta, Austin, Nashville, and New Orleans face the same dilemma: being blue cities deep within red states. Even when the blue cities are state capitals, as is the case with Atlanta, Austin and Nashville, their people live with the harsh reality that most citizens of their respective states hate them and everything they stand for.
The dictionary defines a bubble as “a good or fortunate situation that is isolated from reality or unlikely to last.” In Israeli filmmaker, Eytan Fox’s 2006 movie The Bubble Tel Aviv’s gay village is described as a bubble of religious and ethnic harmony far from the political discord, terrorism, and war that is the norm in the Middle East. Of course, sooner or later reality comes by and bursts the bubble, both in this movie’s explosive end and in the violence that remains a way of life in the Promised Land. There is a lesson to be learned from this, even in Wilton Manors.
I do not write this to be a downer, but a reminder. Like you, I enjoy my visits to Wilton Manors, my second hometown. I like to visit with my friends and spend time with them in the bars, clubs, restaurants, shops and parks of the Island City. I appreciate Wilton Manors-based groups that improve my life, like the Pride Center, Congregation Etz Chaim, and Plays Of Wilton. But while we enjoy the pleasures of Wilton Drive, Dixie Highway, and nearby neighborhoods we need to remind ourselves that what God gave us Ron DeSantis threatens to take away, if we don’t watch out. It will take all our efforts in order to keep our bubble from bursting, taking away the rights we take for granted.