Still Where the Boys Are

The Fort Lauderdale tourism board, looking to soften the city’s image after a tough year, invites Advocate associate editor Neal Broverman to experience its sun-drenched virtues.



After reporting,
editing, and reading dozens of stories about homophobia
stinking up Fort Lauderdale this year, I received quite an
interesting e-mail in October. The first line of the
missive read: “Gay and Lesbian Press Trip: Fort
Lauderdale, Timed to Coincide with the 8th International
Conference on Gay & Lesbian Tourism.” The e-mail
had no mention of the city’s hateful mayor, or
that incident in May when some guy named Jethro
Monestime took over the public-address system at the
Fort Lauderdale airport to quote Leviticus (he went
with the old standby, “If a man lies with a man
as one lies with a woman, they should be put
to death”). According to the press release, Fort
Lauderdale is all about gondolas, guesthouses, and
gay, gay, gay! I wouldn’t have missed this for
the world.

On the flight to
Florida I brushed up on my Lauderdale news: In July, Jim
Naugle, the city’s Democratic mayor, made a push for
private bathrooms on the city’s beaches,
telling the local Sun-Sentinel newspaper,
“We're trying to provide a family environment
where people can take their children who need to use
the bathroom without having to worry about a couple of men
in there engaged in a sex act.” Naugle also
dropped this bon mot: “I don’t use the
word ‘gay.’ I use the word
‘homosexual.’ Most of them aren’t gay.
They’re unhappy.” Judging from my
friends, he may have a point, but I wouldn’t
recommend a straight person saying something like that.

Greater Fort Lauderdale Publicity x395 |

Naugle then
announced a press conference where it was assumed he would
apologize. He did say he was sorry -- for not taking gay
public sex more seriously.

Reaction was
swift: A San Francisco LGBT paper urged a boycott of Fort
Lauderdale, and a planned regional convention was put
on hold by one group. Broward County commissioners
responded by booting Naugle from the county’s
Tourist Development Council, and a group of fair-minded
folks initiated the “Flush Naugle”
campaign, which blasted the mayor’s homophobic
remarks and mailed toilet paper to city hall.

Tags: Travel