Like so many over the last week I’ve been trying to process and understand the horrendous massacre that occurred in the early morning hours of June 12, at the gay club Pulse in Orlando. I grieve for all of the 49 lives taken so brutally by a madman with an assault rifle. My heart goes out to the families of the victims, and the survivors, who will have to replay the horror of this night over and over again.
I’ve been struggling to finds the words worthy enough to share. I’ve read so many heartfelt articles from those who are also grasping to comprehend this tragedy. I admit that this hits closer to home for me, because despite what some have purported, it’s obvious to me that the killer targeted this club because of his hatred toward gay people and possibly himself, something he must have learned from his homophobic father and from the militant, extremist group, ISIS.
Part of my fear is that this tragedy will keep more queer people who are closeted or may be questioning their sexuality hiding and afraid. I remember when my brave younger brother came out at the age of 13 in 2000. Less than two years prior Matthew Shepard had been brutally beaten and left to die in Laramie, Wyoming. Although there is some controversy surrounding the reasons that he was attacked, he became the face of the LGBT’s campaign to protect the community against hate crimes, both by increasing awareness and advocating for new and better laws.
My mom was terrified that my brother would suffer abuse from other people for being gay and being out at such a young age. I was not as brave as my brother, and it took me years to acknowledge my own homosexuality, but I remember feeling so proud of him for remaining true to who he was despite the negativity he could have experienced. Thankfully, he was in a progressive school where the majority of kids embraced him and as far as I know he was not treated poorly nor did he experience any violence directed toward him.
It’s true that I feel more affected by this attack than I have with other previous tragedies (there are sadly too many to count) because they did not feel as personal to me. This terrorist targeted my community in a place where we should be able to feel safe. It’s disheartening that after so many years of progress we now have another level of fear to deal with on a daily basis.
I realize that I am more privileged than others because as a white woman who probably looks more straight than queer I can easily “pass.” Despite that fact, I have only truly felt comfortable walking down the street holding my wife’s hand in the Castro district of SF, or when attending the annual Pride celebration.
Did this man know that June is pride month and that people would band together in solidarity to make sure his hate did not overcome our love? Either way, I’m grateful for the opportunity to stand together with the group of people that I belong to who have been fighting against persecution and attacks for decades. This year I will be at New York Pride where it all began 47 years ago during the Stonewall riots which lead to the current LGBT movement.
I know that there will always be hate in this world, and there will probably always be a new target of that hate no matter how much we are able to change. I’m buoyed by the outpouring of love after tragedies like this, such as the appearance of ‘Angels‘ to block the hateful protestors from Westboro Baptist Church at the funerals of the victims.