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I guess they think it's heroic. Dying while gay, that is. I guess it would be heroic had they known they were about to die, and they put up a fight instead of...I don't know. Never mind. Send them a thesaurus.

Posted by Mr. Poe | August 9, 2007 2:56 PM

I completely agree with you, both about the need for the project, and about it being named improperly.

Mark Bingham was a gay American hero. Matthew Shepherd was the victim of a brutal hate crime.

Wonderful project, poorly chosen name.

Posted by duncan | August 9, 2007 2:59 PM

The rainbow shit really needs to stop, NOW!

I call it the Hallmark-azation of Gay's's's just bad, boring design. What the fuck are gay people doing associating themselves with a puerile logo? Aren't we supposed to have had invented or at least mastered and perfected the Art of Design?

Enough with the rainbows, already!

Posted by michael strangeways | August 9, 2007 3:00 PM

Yeah, I'm with you on this one, Dan. Harvey Milk was a gay American hero. Matthew Shepherd was a victim. Ironically, I think conflating horrible death at the hands of murderers with heroism is a cultural artifact of Christianity.

Posted by Judah | August 9, 2007 3:02 PM

Ronald Reagan ruined the word "hero." If for that reason alone only sad old out-of-touch white men can use that word (while the rest of us laugh at them behind our hands).

Posted by Sachi | August 9, 2007 3:03 PM

No to rainbows! I'm OK for keeping them at Pride parades, because those are kinda meant to be hellishly tacky, right? But this is more serious than that. Raises a question: Any better suggestions from artists in the room? ...

Posted by christopher | August 9, 2007 3:10 PM
7's a good quote on memorials/monuments:

"Their monument sticks like a fishbone in the city's throat." Robert Lowell

A gay victims/heroes monument in most American cities would be a huge fishbone for the Phelps's of the world..

Posted by michael strangeways | August 9, 2007 3:12 PM

Is Medgar Evers considered a hero of the civil rights movement or a victim?

Is this even an apt comparison?

Posted by Collin | August 9, 2007 3:19 PM

that south carolina one is a really weird thing. i went to furman university in greenville, and graduated in '05. it's strange because downtown greenville was usually a really safe spot for the gays. the guys i dated while there often walked hand in hand with me down the street, and i usually kissed one boyfriend after walking to work with him each day. i never had a problem. how awful that the kid was killed after going to a bar i've been to many times!

Posted by konstantConsumer | August 9, 2007 3:22 PM

Language has had a definite "1984" turn in the last 3 decades or more. I agree the name is poorly choosen. I agree victims as heroes is a left-over martyr thing from Christianity. Nothing wrong with mourning the victims and honoring the gay and lesbian heroes (of which there are many in law enforcement, military, etc...) I'm for anything that takes such invisibility and makes it visible. Out of sight - out of mind. I agree with Michael...more fishbones needed.

Posted by The Middle Aged Queer | August 9, 2007 3:24 PM

The deification of victims is a bad strategy politically. The heroes are the ones who are saying "don't let what happened to Matthew Shepard happen again". Middle Americans don't want to hear that victim stuff.

Posted by Fnarf | August 9, 2007 3:49 PM

The rainbow is just a visual shorthand for "gay." Although that reminds me: when my brother came out years ago, he had a pink triangle sticker on his car. I can't recall the last time I saw one of those. Did the rainbow kill off the triangle or is this just proof that I never go up to the Hill?

Posted by Jason Josephes | August 9, 2007 3:52 PM

Everybody complains about the rainbow--but nobody does anything about it. Can we find a practical way of finally getting rid of the thing?

And if we're really searching for a symbol representing gays victimized by violence, I don't think there's any more pertinent symbol than the pink triangle. It's not heroic, it's horrifying--and it's historically accurate for what's being represented.

Posted by Boomer in NYC | August 9, 2007 3:52 PM

I don't disagree with your rather pedantic point about the word "heroes"--but then again, it has been well-sullied and well-used in this manner for a generation or two. Are you really going to try to tell the families of the 911 dead, for example, that their slain husbands and fathers *aren't* heroes? Ultimately, your objection is a cultural/linguistic one that has nothing to do with the appropriateness of this memorial. It deserves our support.

Posted by adamblast | August 9, 2007 4:15 PM

I do support it, Adamblast. But nothing has a right to be complete and total and unqualified support at all times. Not even gay things, not even this gay thing.

A distinction is made about the victims of 9/11. The "heroes" are the fireman and cops and folks on Flight 93--the ones who fought the attackers or died doing their jobs, trying to help. The victims are the rest who died--some of whom may have been heroes too, a point some families have made. People who stayed behind with folks who couldn't escape, or died helping others out of the building. But the heroes, per general agreement, are the ones that rushed into buildings that everyone else was rushing out of.

Again, I think the memorial is appropriate. Said so, please re-read my post. I don't think the word "hero" is appropriate in this context, and I know for certain that rainbows sure as hell aren't.

Posted by Dan Savage | August 9, 2007 4:20 PM
16 first instinct is to roll my eyes at the word "hero," but at the same time, being openly gay, particularly in some parts of this country, is an act of extreme bravery.

Still, my first instinct takes over, and I think the memorial should be renamed, and definitely, definitely should lose the rainbow. This is an instance where pink and black triangles really would be appropriate, since those arose out of another instance where gays and lesbians were systematically victimized.

Posted by Gitai | August 9, 2007 4:45 PM
Posted by duncan | August 9, 2007 5:03 PM

the best way to stop murder is by erecting large marble structures... i hear it's pretty good at stopping wars, too...

whoever came up with the name has been spending too much time at

Posted by teddy b | August 9, 2007 5:09 PM

What I would prefer to see is a statue or other representation of Matthew AND his parents. I agree Matthew was not a hero, however his parents really were. It would have been completely reasonable for them to behave like many similarly situated and turn to hatred either towards their son's murderers or towards their son himself (classic victim blaming among gay parents). Instead they refused to seek the death penalty for Matthew's murderers, started the Matthew Shepard foundation, and have been in many respects the poster parents for PFLAG. I'm imagining a statue of the three of them standing together, classic family portrait style. I think that would convey the heroic message of the monument while at the same time representing the Shepard murder, trial, & aftermath as a major event in American LGBT history.

Posted by CheshireK | August 10, 2007 7:11 AM

Oh, this is some wierd Christianist idea of heroism. Right? Dying of a hate crime makes you a big bad martyr, hero, saint or some other such thing.

For fuck's sake: If we jews did this we'd all be messiahs. Can you imagine how many HOLOCAUST HEROES there are by this reasoning.

This is a stupid idea and it is really, totally, and truly insulting.

Memorialize the dead, the victims, the people who never should have had to die or suffer because of their sexual orientation. But don't pretend that they are HEROES.

Posted by Jonathan | August 10, 2007 7:42 AM

Oh. And I agree with Judah @4.

Posted by Jonathan | August 10, 2007 7:43 AM

Unfortunately, and inexplicably given how much you claim to "get" the project, you left out this key information from Towleroad:

"As for the 'heroes' moniker, the organizers say: 'All people who live honestly about their sexual orientation are heroic, as it takes great strength and courage to face the daily struggles for personal freedom in the face of enormous opposition; to ultimately give their life for said freedom makes them heroes.'"

Including that makes all the difference to me not just in explaining the name but speaking to the void in mainstream America's understanding of how many other forms of repression exist, of how 2007 Americans still want to homogenize everyone not just homos, and not just those examples that go all the way to murder. In fact, that the logical extension of homohatred, the "wages" as religionists might say, IS murder.

I doubt that would have dissuaded most of the Net Trolls posting here, whose entire raison d'etre is to crawl from beneath their rocks to bitch about whatever, and like cockroaches will survive any nuclear winter.

Posted by Leland Frances | August 10, 2007 11:15 AM

One would think it would take more to be a "hero" than to be killed just for BEING GAY. The word "hero" should be reserved for those who champion the cause of their people and are slain because of it. Martin Luther King: Hero. Countless lynched in America: Victims. It's not enough to be killed because you are something, it should be because you stand for something.

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