Why I Am Still Angry, Why I Am Still Scared, Why I'm Still Sad, Why I Am Still Proud
At 6:45am, my phone chimes w/a text alert from @LizDawson waking me up. In my just-woken-up, completely groggy state, I learned that 50 people were killed & 53 people were injured in an Orlando gay bar, the biggest mass shooting in the history of the US. It took me all day to process what happened and really I'm still processing it.
- •One thing you must understand (and that wouldn't be obvious if you aren't a gay man of a certain age). Gay bars are suppose to be safe spaces, something that just doesn't exist elsewhere for gay men.In a society where you can be bashed or killed for looking slightly feminine or not heteronormative, gay bars were the one safe space where you could just be you. They were often ugly, sketchy places with black plywood walls and sticky floors from too many spilled drinks and who knows what else. But it was the one place that was ours and no one else's. And if you ever wonder why gay men get so pissy about bachelorette parties at gay bars this is why. It's our space and it is the only one we had.
- •So when an act of violence occurs like this, it is doubly jarring. It's akin to a massacre at a school, a church/synagogue, or a public park.It probably doesn't sound like it should be. What's a bar vs a church or school? But when you think about how historically there are NO. OTHER. PLACES. for gay men to gather safely, it puts things in perspective. And I say this as someone who hasn't been to a gay bar in years and was never one to go out even when I was younger. It's not always about going and partying. It was about being with your community and being yourself.
- •I think about all my friends and loved ones who had to deal with so much shit in their lives.And some who STILL DO.
- •I think about all the gay men who died of HIV/AIDS and had their family disown them.What sort of parent refuses to acknowledge the existence of your son as he lies on his deathbed? What sort of human being does that? For more info please read http://bit.ly/1Mh9D6z
- •I think about my friend Steven who was called faggot every day in high school as he walked down the halls. His math teacher actually said "I'm allowed to use the word faggot because it just means a bundle of sticks"Steven was recently pronounced the 1st Poet Laureate of West Hollywood. He runs a project called The Gay Rub, which are cemetery gravestone rubbings of gay and lesbian figures. The exhibit of them has traveled all over the US. His high school is now planning on honoring him for his achievements at his 20th reunion. Initially he wasn't going to go, but then he decided to accept...and read a truly honest speech about his time in high school. I really hope someone records it and puts in on YouTube.
- •I think about my ex-boyfriend who was gay bashed w/a group of his friends (before I met him) at night in St. Louis. They were attacked and managed to fight the bashers off. They walked to the closest gas station to call the police (this was before cell phones). The police told them to wait and they would send someone out to take their statement.They waited around for 3 hours. The police never came.
- •I think about my friend Alic, who is a gay trans man and has to deal with the most horrific shit possible as a pediatric nurse in the oncology ward of a hospital. He cares for kids that are terminal and is one of the strongest people I know.Fuck you North Carolina for trying to make it illegal for him just to go to the bathroom. Fuck. You.
- •I think about all the gay men and lesbians and allies who rode the AIDS Lifecycle this past week along with my partner AJ and everything they had to endure.On the very first AIDS Ride that AJ did,16 years ago, as he cycled down to LA, he had an odd moment where he was by himself on the roads without any other cyclist nearby. A car pulled up next to him as he cycled up a tough hill, and the driver rolled down his window. He leaned out and said to AJ "thank you for riding for me." Then he drove off. AJ never got his name and never saw him again.
- •I think of how scared I used to be when AJ would take my hand as we walked down the street or in a mall in Indiana or St. Louis when we visited our respective families.AJ is fearless about these things. I learned to let go and to not care about it as much, but I was always looking over my shoulder when we held hands in the Midwest. I soon learned to ignore the looks of disgust or curiosity that I would see in people's faces as they noticed us walking past them.
- •I think of the day after Prop 8 passed here in California, some random stranger saw us walking down the street holding hands and stopped us to ask us "How did you feel about Christians and their attitude toward gays?" He wanted to know if we hated Christians for the passing of Prop 8.We basically said that we know a lot of Christians and churches that were adamantly opposed to Prop 8 and totally supportive of same-sex marriage. Then we asked him how he voted. He looked confused. Then he said he voted for it. He voted to nullify and make same-sex marriage illegal. Before I could even come up with suitable response AJ, in a seething fury, said "I can't talk to you. You are a hater. I can't talk to you."
- •I think of how I live in a bubble in SF and take my safety for granted. Especially in this day and age. Until a couple of weeks when some crazy man came up to me as I was walking down the street with 3 female friends of mine and started yelling at me about how he was going to kill me for being a faggot and how I was a terrorist.This was not in a bad part of town. This was in broad daylight, around 4pm. My immediate response was to walk faster and make sure he didn't get to the woman who was carrying her 4-month old baby under a blanket. It was the first time she had brought the baby out in public. He eventually stopped yelling at me. They later told me they had never thought about what it was like to be gay and have someone actually yell at them that they were going to kill them for being gay. I didn't have a response.
- •I think of all 50 people who died in that gay bar in Orlando, who went out that night to just enjoy themselves. Who's lives ended because a mentally unstable man saw two men kissing in public and it freaked him out.
- •I think of all 53 people who were injured and the others who are physically unhurt but will have to live through the terror and trauma of that night for the rest of their lives.
- •I think of how our lives will go on. Politicians will politicize this. People will cry outrage. Online petitions will be signed. And most like nothing will change.An elementary school of children were killed in 2012. If that doesn't create sweeping change, how will a mass killing of gay men (most of whom are people of color) going to change anything?
- •And I think of how angry I am that this happened.How did this happen? How can any single human being do this? How can we, as a country, as a global society of civilized people, continue to allow this to happen?
- •And I think of how scared I am.Will I start to look over my shoulder again when I hold hands with AJ? Should I avoid large gatherings of gay men? Will the innate fear that I used to have as a gay man of color always looking over my shoulder, the one that I mostly have conquered, come rearing back up again?
- •And I think of how sad for all those that have passed away before me.Not just in the Orlando Pulses Massacre. But all the gay men who were gay bashed and died in relative obscurity. All the teen runaways who were kicked out of their houses and died on the streets. All the LGBTQIQ folks who killed themselves because they saw no future. All the gay men who succumbed to AIDS. I am sad for the lost generation of queers. We stand where we are today, and have achieved so much because of you. And you are not here to enjoy it.
- •And I think of how proud I am.I am proud of my friends (straight and gay and everything in-between) who posted about the outrage and anger and pain of this event on social media. I am proud of my friends who survived their own gay bashing and lived to tell about it. I am proud of every single gay man and woman (and gender outlying individual) who is still alive. Because they are survivors. We are all survivors. We have scars in our hearts, in our souls and some on our bodies. But we are alive. And that is why I am proud.