Since this column began people have said that the Berkshires are very LGBTQ accepting and that there really wasn't much need to cover the "out" scene, gays and lesbians being well integrated into the community.
That's pretty much true, but there are still some problems.
For example, today's Berkshire Eagle had a wonderful story by Jenn Smith on the "Crooked" event. It's a LGBTQ Prom being organized by the Live Out Loud Youth Leadership Project of Western Massachusetts. It will take place at Jae's Spice in Pittsfield on Friday, May 14.
But within an hour of this upbeat and factual article being published, the hatred began. The paper's Topix comments linked to the story started to accumulate gay bashing comments. Anonymously of course. The haters are mostly nervous nellies who would never dare sign their name to such vitriol.
The cover of anonymity the Eagle provides these nabobs enables them to act as the Berkshire's own shadow Ku Klux Klan. The KKK wore hoods to conceal their identity and avoid being held responsible for their terrorist tactics. So too does the Eagle provide cover for these cowards. Already several comments have been deleted because they contained clearly hateful and threatening comments. The Topix columns will remain a haven for the local lynch mob until they require people to sign in and identify themselves before posting. The fact that this has not happened after repeated requests to do so can only prove that the Eagle would rather have the hatred and controversy than rational community discussions in their public forums.
The same people who cheered when the original Jae's closed are now threatening to boycott it. And promising violence outside the event. Fair minded people will remember that Jae's has provided a warm welcome for everyone, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or any other divisive term.
While I defend the right of these Topix dwellers to their own narrow version of free speech, it is perverse how they would refuse other Americans the right to free assembly. Or the pursuit of happiness. How un-American. How un-Berkshire like.
Here is a smattering of some of their comments: "Sure to be a big fight out side SPICE the night of this venue
SICK...a pedophile's delight....Go back in the closet." Some of the more colorful ones are gone, I will not repeat them here.
The article can be found here. It is titled "A Chance to be Yourself."
"This ball is purposely being launched during prom season to offer an additional venue for LGBTQ kids and allies to go to feel safe. Our dance aims to provide an avenue where couples of all types can be celebrated in a safe setting," said Kelly Shuff-Heck, who co-advises the Live Out Loud Youth group.
In recent weeks we have read about controversies over gay and lesbian teens being refused permission to attend proms in other states, and though there have been no overt refusals in the Berkshires, the undercurrent of disapproval still deters many students from participating. "We wanted to have a dance where you can be yourself and have fun," said Tiffani White, a student of the Pittsfield Adult Learning Center and a Live Out Loud member.