Response on Riis

Dear Editor:

I would like to address the article written by Katie McFadden on August 31, 2023 regarding “Riis Porn.”

I am a frequent attendee of Jacob Riis. I am nonbinary/trans/gay/professional drag performer/artist. I go one to two times a week during the summer months. I am well known for the Barbie/Ken beach installation I set up each time I am there a display called Plastics In The City. I am not one to EVER go nude as that’s not my personal choice. I just like to bring joy and happiness with my art installation and be amongst others in my community where I feel accepted and safe.

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community myself, I will say that this article is VERY one sided. It also comes off even homophobic. You did not give voice to anyone in our community that is being attacked by these so-called claims. This article only gives voice to one side who is claiming to be victimized by LGBTQ+ people existing on the beach.

It is a WELL-known fact that the residents living around Jacob Riis Beach are VERY conservative and on the last major voting cycle during the 2020 election they overwhelmingly voted Republican.

They do not want us to exist in the area, but do they realize this beach has been an LGBTQ+ destination since the 1930s? Long before they had their homes there.

Also, these so called “lewd sexual acts” I have NEVER witnessed while on the beach. Yes, I have seen people be bottomless at Jacob Riis beach and also when I been further down the shore at Beach 116th or 97th. And those people are not LGBTQ+ people. When law enforcement officers tell them to put on a bottom, most comply and were unaware that it was breaking a law.

I myself have experienced homophobia and transphobia from people that live in this area. I have NEVER been nude or engaged in any type of lewd behavior. I am just existing as a queer person, and they do not like that. Hateful things have been said to me.

I participate every year in the Coney Island Mermaid Parade in Brooklyn in a mermaid drag costume that I create each year. In 2018, I decided to walk and participate in the Poseidon Parade at Beach 105th which is not too far from Jacob Riis. The amount of negative slurs I was called throughout the day in my drag costume, was really unbelievable. I was not exposed in anyway or lewd. Just existing in a parade that is supposed to be for everyone to express themselves in an artistic manner. Even before the parade started, I went to use the bathroom. I used the women’s bathroom because I was in full drag and felt more comfortable using that bathroom. I used the bathroom like anyone else would, fixed my wig/makeup in the mirror just a bit and exited. As I was walking back to my friends, a man wearing a MAGA hat got in my face and started screaming at me, “You used the wrong bathroom tranny!” Then accused me of trying to rape women and children. I told him that is something I would never do as I’m a survivor of sexual abuse. He still kept screaming and causing a scene calling me a “rapist.” But these people you all are giving voice to and defending in your article.

They do not care about children. What this is about is that they do not want LGBTQ+ people to exist on “their beach.” It does not fit into their narrative and/or belief system. They have bullied and harassed LGBTQ+ extensively over the last few years. Many, like myself, are just coming for a day at the beach to be in a place that has been a safe space for LGBTQ+ people for almost 100 years.

I urge you to do more research on the WHOLE situation before making an article that is based on stories from only one side.


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