Two out gay staff members who work for Public Advocate Jumaane Williams were traveling to a rally at Alibi Lounge — where Rainbow Flags were burned twice in just over a month — when they were hit with homophobic slurs.
William Gerlich, who serves as the communications director for Williams, and Crystal Hudson, who is the deputy public advocate for community engagement, were called “fags” as they exited the 135th Street 2/3 train station in Harlem on the evening of July 11 when they were headed to Alibi Lounge, which is at 2376 Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard near West 139th Street in Manhattan.
“I didn’t hear it at first but my colleague did,” Gerlich told Gay City News in a phone interview on July 12. “She turned around and looked. He said something about how homosexuals shouldn’t be here.”
At the rally outside of Alibi Lounge, Hudson spoke of the verbal abuse the pair suffered just minutes before.
“For me, as a gay woman, it’s not about just the flags, it’s not about visibility, and our presence is not enough,” she said. “We need to denounce the nature of the hatred that people feel and the confidence they feel walking down the street to call people like me and my colleague out.”
Gerlich said the pair opted not to file a complaint with police.
In a written statement on July 12, Williams, acknowledging that he is a “ said the incident highlights “a sobering truth.”
“As much progress has been made in this city and country for LGBTQ individuals, highlighted over the last month, the struggle borne of homophobic hatred that ignited the riot at Stonewall fifty years ago is still pervasive,” he said. “It’s disturbing that statistically this can be more prevalent in communities that continue to feel the distressing impact of marginalization.”
He continued, “As a straight, cisgender black man, I am deeply concerned by the bigotry against LGBTQ individuals that persists in my city, and I am committed to working with all communities to amplify more vocal allies who promote acceptance, equity, and justice.”
The incident follows a string of anti-LGBTQ attacks in New York in recent months. Police most recently arrested 20-year-old Tyresse Singleton for torching Rainbow Flags at Alibi Lounge on May 31 and again on July 9, while transgender activist Bianey Garcia and Norma Ureiro were pepper-sprayed and hit with slurs on June 29.