June 12: I wake up with flamboyancy in my step. Today is our first Philadelphia Pride. Pride has always brought me a renewed sense of confidence, and a revitalized sense of community. In a time of personal struggle with finding my community in Philly, Pride is a motivator to get outside, and to celebrate. As we get our breakfast together, me in my NO H8 shirt, and Derrick in his rainbow unicorn tank top, I read about the mass shooting at an Orlando gay club that had killed 20, and injured many more. Stunned, we head out for the Pride festivities as planned, with hesitant smiles on our faces. 20 minutes later we hear of a man going to LA Pride is arrested with explosives. The number of killed people in Orlando has jumped to 50.
June 13: A day passes. I feel shame. I am afraid to call this a homophobic attack, because I am afraid it would diminish the impact of this huge situation. I feel alone and lost. Processing.
June 14-15: I feel overwhelmed. The loud outpour and reactions. Friends struggling with sleeping. Strangers offering support. Others calling for the end of the gun violence. People blaming one group or another. The vigils, the sit ins, the articles and options. The voices saying maybe if there were more guns in the club it could have been stopped. Remember how Kinder Surprise eggs are banned in the USA (and maybe some laws from say, 1938, or September 25 1789 are outdated)?
Flashback to Summer 2001: I was 18, and it was the first time I went to the gay village in Toronto. The moment my shoes crossed Church and Wellesley, it felt like this safe bubble wrapped me up from the rest of the world. I felt normal and I blended in for the first time. Reflecting back, I think this meant so much because I finally felt safe.
15 years later, I am married. We have a home together. We are out to our families and friends. We surround ourselves with people who accept us. Yet, there still is a worry when I reach for his hand walking down the street. There still is hesitation when I kiss him at the theatre. I feel the eyes that may or may not really be on us. There is a internal awareness that is always there. When we travel, people still ask us to be safe… a comment arising because we’re gay. I feel weary. The club, for many, was the safest place to be. With this shooting, this single safe space has been violated, and has caused me to question everywhere.
June 16-17: I feel anger. Anger because someone thinks they can hurt and kill others. Anger because I feel helpless. Anger because governments, communities, and individuals are so set on their own priorities, they don’t focus on finding a shared vision. Anger because people actually value the “right” to bear arms. Anger because violence happens every day all over the world, and nothing is changing. Anger because there is so much anger.
June 18: I feel confused, conflicted, and dismissed for feeling so much. Someone shared a post: “dear white queers, no, it was not your community that was attacked… seeking a place to mourn, I felt my grief suffocated under a sea of self-congratulatory white tears and (white) rainbow pride”. Stunned, I question my feelings, and ask if this is my place to grieve. Why do we draw such walls between each of us… for change to happen, we need to unite. I understand this person is hurting. I may have a different story… yet I’m hurting too.
June 19: I feel fear. In NYC, Derrick and I attend Broadway Bares, a fundraiser dance show raising money for AIDS-related causes across the US. Standing in a crowd of mostly gay men, it dawned on me that this is the first time I am in a similar situation to Orlando. A crowded, loud, loving, colorful, authentic, safe, gay space. A space for me that always felt more safe than anywhere else in the world. Nearing the end of the show, my brain changes from happily enamored and entertained, to intensely scanning the audience, the lights, the rafters for any sort of danger. I catch myself questioning who was on stage and should they be. I think this could be it, at any moment, and am I okay with that? I clutch Derrick’s hand, and try to let this fear go. As the show ends, the hosts speaks of #LoveWins and #UnitedOrlando. Tears quietly come to me. Dread fills me as they speak of standing up as a community. Sadness overcomes me as we cheer in celebration. Sadness, but a gratefulness that we are united. Together is the only way forward.
June 20-23: I try to feel courage… to live more authentically; to let go of fear; to call out injustices as they happen. To try to stand up louder than before. As my good friend Albert Einstein once said: The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything. It’s hard be courageous, but I try.
For everyone lost, struggling, or hurt; for everyone standing tall. I’m still processing. We all process these things different. No matter what your story or who you are, your voice is distinct and it matters. Find a way to talk about the tough things and unite. Shame, anger, confusion, conflict, dismissal and fear can’t stop us.
Today: I feel my pulse, and I look forward to a better world.
If you need support, connect with someone (email or message me, I would be happy to listen, refer, and help). How can we get change in this world? What are the possibilities? What part do you play? I encourage everyone to dialogue and ask questions, in the comments, and with anyone and everyone. Being vulnerable, honest, and open is the only way to learn, and is a good place for change to start.
Check out the songs Pulse and What the World Needs Now Is Love. An original, and a cover, both in honor of Orlando. Music has a way of getting right to the heart of it :). Also, if you can, buy the tracks: All proceeds go to Equality Florida, and LGBT Center of Central Florida.
Song of the Day: Pulse (Melissa Etheridge)
Second Song of the Day: What the World Needs Now Is Love (Broadway for Orlando)