Monday, July 8, 2024

Death and Life

Image:  Facebook

Over 100 people gathered yesterday in Bangor, Maine, to mark the 40th anniversary of the murder of Charlie Howard. He was 23 in the summer of 1984 when three teenagers, yelling homophobic slurs, approached him and his boyfriend. The teens threw Howard off a bridge, and he drowned.

A couple of months later and about 50 miles away, I returned to Maine for my senior year at Colby College. As I remember, a campus cop was overheard remarking that Howard got what he deserved. The cop was fired.

In hindsight, that in itself was a sign that things were changing in Maine. Howard's murder led to the creation of the Maine Lesbian/Gay Political Alliance, now EqualityMaine. The state outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in 2005.  In 2012, Maine became the first state to approve same-sex marriage at the ballot box.

Over these 40 years, queer life in the Pine Tree State has improved dramatically, and that had a lot to do with Charlie Howard and every other Charlie Howard we don't know about. Why is it that people have to die for civil rights to advance? I wish the universe would come up with a less lethal arrangement.

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