The Upstairs Lounge Fire


Anonymous Letter Decries Treatment of Gays

Hurt by Label

Editor, The Times-Picayune

I want to make a few comments about the fire at the Upstairs Bar, and the saddest part of all is that I must ask you to withhold my name because of a fear of losing my job. The people of New Orleans have no idea of the pain and suffering gays are now going through. Many lost dear and close friends in that horrible fire.

These gay people are now all asking the same questions. Why are gay lives looked on so cheaply? Where are all the expressions of sorrow for the victims and their families from our public officials and religious leaders? Why did church after church turn down request from the gay community to hold memorial services? Why do police refer to patrons of the bar as “queers and thieves”? And most important of all, why did the news media find it necessary to refer to the bar time and time again as a homosexual bar?

I am sure that not all of the people who were killed were gay, but even if they were it is grossly unfair to put labels on them. The relatives of those who died must live with this the rest of their lives and those who were injured are labeled for life which means possible loss of employment, etc….

I have heard of only one group in the straight community that publicly offered sympathy to the victims and gave public support to the national day of mourning, this group being the LSUNO Young Democrats. It must have taken a lot of courage for this group to make a public stand such as it did. Thank God for our young people, they might be this city’s last hope. M.F. 

A letter to the editor by a closeted gay person raises questions about the discounting of gay people in the aftermath of the fire.
Source: The Times-Picayune, July 4, 1973
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