We haven’t let the Pulse attack scare us back into the closet.
It’s hard to grapple with the realization that there are no longer safe spaces for LGBT+ people in the United States, but that’s exactly what I found myself doing the day I heard about the shooting at Pulse. On June 12, 2016, a terrorist went into a gay club in Orlando and took a safe space away from us. 49 people are dead, and 53 were injured. At any point in time a suspected terrorist, or a homophobe, or, god forbid, an unhealthy mix of both, can march into a place where LGBT+ people congregate for safety and community, and open fire with an assault rifle that they purchased legally!
There are already few places in America where an LGBT+ indentifying person can go to exist without reservation - to hold their lover’s hand without fearing what others will say or do in response. Gay clubs used to be this for me. I have never stepped foot in a gay club and feared that I might not leave alive, and now I fear that that is what I will think every time I go.
Today wasn’t just an act of terrorism; it was a hate crime. Queer people - specifically queer people of color - were the target of this vicious hate crime that shares the distinction of being the worst mass shooting in modern US history. I’m still trying to get my emotions sorted out. I keep bouncing back and forth between sad and angry depending on what I see on my twitter timeline. When my boyfriend’s mom called to ask if he had seen the news, she told him to tell me to be careful. I don’t have words to describe how that made me feel. I really appreciate the fact that she cares about me and my safety, but the fact that she has cause for concern and feels compelled to tell me to be careful living my life is a harrowing reality.
From what I have seen, the LGBT+ community is not afraid, we haven’t let this attack scare us back into the closet. We are sad, and we are angry, but we are not afraid. We are a resilient community with a lot of fight in us. Stories For Love has been focusing our interviews on what makes our community proud this Pride season. So, while I reflect on what makes me most proud to be a member of this strong and vibrant community, I have come to the conclusion that it is our community. Watching as we have stood up, came out, and joined together to mourn those we have lost has been a beautiful contrast to this senseless act of violence.
We cannot and will not let this stop us from unapologetically being ourselves. We owe that to the victims.
I’ve seen people express their desire to help, but so many don’t know how. How can anyone who doesn’t live in Orlando or the surrounding area do anything to help? I had to think about this for a while. The easiest way to help is by donating money to any number of crowdfunding websites with account set up for the victims and their families like Equality Florida.
Will there ever be a point where Congress can actually talk about being realistic when it comes to gun ownership? Will there ever be a point where dangerous criminals and suspected terrorists are prevented from purchasing assault rifles? I’m not going to hold my breath.
What we can do is demand to be treated as equals. Anti-LGBT laws are popping up across the nation. The religious right is trying to dehumanize queer people every day, and we cannot let that happen. It has been just over a year since the Obergefell ruling and we cannot become complacent. Do not let anyone tell you - either directly or through legislation - that you are less than anyone else. Write to your elected officials. Email them. Call them. Do whatever you can to let them know that we are their constituents and we demand equality.
You have to be visible even when it is scary. You have to fight for your right to live - nobody is going to do that for you. Live authentically. We have to take back our safe spaces. And above all else, never forget Orlando 06/12/2016.