At the town council meeting this past Wednesday night I was proud to hear the mayor Proclaim that June is Pride Month in Hawthorne. Mike Stracco, Chairman of the Hawthorne Pride Alliance (HPA) announced that the Pride flag will be flown for the first time on a new flagpole, along with being displayed in the window at Borough Hall and at St. Clements. Even some local small businesses will be showing their solidarity in different ways this month! 

I’ve commended the mayor on the formation of the HPA, the work Stracco and the HPA has achieved this year but acknowledge that even more needs to be done. One thing still has me scratching my head. If the town went through the process of purchasing a second flagpole to honor cultures, movements and causes, -- I wrote about this last year calling on the town to purchase and install a second flagpole at Borough Hall -- then why wasn’t it installed outside the Municipal Building? We have a wonderful 9/11 memorial but it wasn’t installed there either I guess out of respect to those lives lost that day. It wasn’t installed next to the flagpole at the Hawthorne Volunteer Ambulance Corps so why did they choose that patch of grass a few feet away in front of it? Why not erect it at Borough Hall? I know that this decision wasn’t up to the HPA. It was solely upon the mayor and town administration, especially if it is intended to be used for other causes and events in the future. They held a flag raising for “Mental Health Awareness” in May. These are questions that not only I have had since hearing this but many others in town are wondering as well. 

Last year, I also called on the mayor to recognize and fly the Progress Pride Flag instead of the rainbow one. I did so again Wednesday night. This flag shows support for transgendered, the marginalized black and brown transgender community and those that identify as non-binary. They deserve to know their community of Hawthorne is a safe space for them. I wrote, “each year, more students are identifying as transgendered or non-binary. As a town we need to show support and camaraderie that our community is becoming more open and diverse. Hawthorne is beginning a new chapter of inclusivity, so we call on the newly formed Hawthorne Pride Alliance to support and fight for the following now and in the future. The town should raise the Progress Pride Flag starting this July 2020, not just the traditional rainbow flag.”

As we overcome and recover from the pandemic, our youth should be the focus. Recently, The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health has some very disheartening statistics all within the last year:

“42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth. 

75% of LGBTQ youth reported that they had experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity at least once in their lifetime.

Half of all LGBTQ youth of color reported discrimination based on their race/ethnicity in the past year, including 67% of Black LGBTQ youth and 60% of Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ youth.”

As of May 21st, The Human Rights Campaign reported “Oliver’s death is at least the 26th violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2021. We say 'at least' because too often these deaths go unreported or misreported.” The HRC recorded 44 deaths in 2020, the most since they started tracking this violence in 2013. 

As a longtime ally for the LGBTQIA+ community I urge everyone to go out and support Hawthorne’s Pride month but remember this is also a time to mourn and reflect on those lives taken away too soon and unnecessarily. Call the mayor #973-427-1168 or email rgoldberg@hawthornenj.org. Ask why the new flagpole is not located at Borough Hall? Ask why aren't we flying the Progress Pride flag? Also, please email our councilmen and possible future mayor John Lane at jlane@hawthornenj.org or Joseph Wojtecki jwojtecki@hawthornenj.org and ask where they stand on these questions, issues and support for the LGBTQIA+ community. Will they officiate marriages for those in the LBGTQIA+ community unlike our outgoing mayor? Will they allow the HPA to remain and become a more decentralized agency with more youth, transgendered and non-binary members? We all as a community deserve to know now if they want our votes in November. 

Craig Cayetano represents Hawthorne as the Green Party Candidate for Town Council in the 2021 General Election