First of all, I’d like to apologize to all my followers out there for not writing in such a long while. It seems once life speeds up and throws one thing after another at you, plus the lack of inspiration, writing seems to take a back seat to everything else going on in life.
To make everyone aware, my paternal Grandmother passed away this weekend. As you’ve most likely discerned from my previous posts, I’ve always been close to my Grandmothers. Even though I may have been closer to my maternal Grandmother (my Grandmother who passed away this weekend lived much farther away, so distance played a large part in our closeness growing up), that in no way diminishes the love I have for her. But that, as they say, is another topic for another time, when my head can wrap itself around everything that has transpired over the last few days.
The biggest news to come out of this weekend is, obviously, the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. With everything going on in my own life, I was one of the last to hear the news until much later. It seems around fifty people were killed, along with an additional fifty-or-so people wounded when a shooter opened fire on a crowd inside a gay nightclub in Orlando named Pulse. I’ve heard some call it one of the worst mass-shootings in modern American history.
Since I’m one of those people who practically stay logged into Facebook, I soon saw all these reports being posted of the incident, and the horrific tales which soon followed. As I began scrolling through my friends posts and reading comments, one in particular stood out to me. Trying to come up with something meaningful to say about the incident was extremely difficult for me, given my own personal loss this weekend, but I think the following summed up what I was thinking more succinctly than any other. After receiving the authors permission (thank you so much, Alex Darke), I’d like to post the message in its entirety for all to read. I think it says a lot about the state of mind and the struggle fought by those affected by this tragedy.
Earlier today, a friend remarked: “I don’t understand. The way you are reacting, it’s almost like you knew someone in the club.”
Here’s the thing you need to understand about every LGBT person in your family, your work, and your cirle of friends:
We’ve spent most our lives being aware that we are at risk.
When you hear interviewers talking to LGBT folks and they say “It could have been here. I could have been me,” they aren’t exaggerating. I don’t care how long you’ve been out, how far down the road to self acceptance and love you’ve traveled, we are always aware that we are at some level of risk.
I’m about as “don’t give a shit what ANYONE thinks” as anyone you’ll ever meet… and when I reach to hold Matt’s hand in the car? I still do the mental calculation of “ok, that car is just slightly behind us so they can’t see, but that truck to my left can see right inside the car”. If I kiss Matt in public, like he leaned in for on the bike trail the other day, I’m never fully in the moment. I’m always parsing who is around us and paying attention to us. There’s a tension that comes with that… a literal tensing of the muscles as you brace for potential danger. For a lot us us, it’s become such an automatic reaction that we don’t even think about it directly any more. We just do it.
And then… over the last few years, it started to fade a little. It started to feel like maybe things were getting better. A string of Supreme Court decisions. Public opinion shifting to the side of LGBT rights. Life was getting better. You could breathe a little bit.
What happened with this event was one of a few things that are pretty dramatically demonstrated by how Matt and I are reacting to this. Matt came out fairly late, during the golden glow of the changing tide. He’s never dealt with something like this. It’s literally turned him inside out emotionally because all that stuff he read about that was just “then” became very much “NOW”. For me, I’ve had some time to adjust to the idea that people hate us enough to kill us. Matthew Shephard was my first real lesson in that. So this weekend was a sudden slap in the face, a reminder that I should never have let my guard down, should never have gotten complacent… because it could have been US.
Every LGBT person you know knows what I’m talking about. Those tiny little mental calculations we do over the course of our life add up… and we just got hit with a stark reminder that those simmering concerns, those fears… they probably won’t ever go away. We’ll never be free of them. Additionally, now we just got a lesson that expressing our love could result in the deaths of *others* completely unrelated to us. It’s easy to take risks when it’s just you and you’ve made that choice. Now there’s this subtext that you could set off someone who kills other people who weren’t even involved. And that’s just a lot.
That’s why I’m personally a bit off balance even though (or because, depending on how you look at it) I live in Texas and was not personally effected by this tragedy. Don’t get me wrong: nothing will change. I will still hold my husband’s hand in public. I will still kiss him in public. We’ll still go out and attend functions and hold our heads high.
But we will be doing those mental calculations for the rest of our lives. Those little PDAs you take for granted with your spouse. They come with huge baggage for us. Every single one is an act of defiance, with all that entails.
So do me a favor. Reach out to that LGBT person in your life. Friend, co-worker, or family. Just let them know you are thinking of them and you love them. That will mean the world to them right now. I promise you.
For me, reading this post and reflecting on the tragedy of this weekend really drove home the point of how hate and bigotry are still alive and well, even in spite of the recent examples of people being more tolerant and accepting of the LGBT community. Of course, I never thought it had gone away, but knew it was hiding in the shadows, ready to strike at any given moment. I suppose I never expected it to strike out in such a dramatic way. I suppose I say all this to express that I simply can’t understand how such crimes against humanity can occur to people who are passionate about nothing more than wanting to go about living their own lives on their own terms, loving another human being without causing harm to any other person on the planet. But hate is an all-consuming, relentless, deplorable state-of-mind, and it causes misery in its wake wherever it goes.
I pray for the families of the victims, hoping they can somehow find peace in all this chaos and sorrow. I pray for others affected by this tragedy that they can (and I know they will) find the strength to keep fighting the evil that seeks to destroy them and hold their head high, knowing that their bravery has overcome that which seeks to destroy them. To everyone personally affected by what has happened, please know that I stand with you in spirit, and I’m sending love your way and encouragement for you to keep being true to yourself, no matter the odds!