At a family party this past weekend, my boyfriend, Steven, and I were approached by a man and his husband for casual conversation over dinner. It occurs to me now how unconsciously conscious I was (and we all were) about how we acted, even in a private venue with an accepting and loving family, and how slowly, in private conversation, the fact that the four of us were indeed in gay relationships came out.
One of the couple, David, said to us something to the effect of, “You guys have it so easy, the times have changed; you can be who you are freely.” I agreed, as comfortably as anyone can agree that they have it easier.
This was on Saturday, June 11, 2016, less than 12 hours before over 100 LGBTA men and women were shot, almost half killed, while minding their own business in a night club in Orlando, Florida.
Sunday afternoon, less than a day later, I had to think twice about going out to dinner with Steven. I thought twice about how to act while shopping at the grocery store with him. Today, at work I’ve been thinking about the vigil in Center City Philadelphia tonight, and reminding myself to make sure to call home first. Maybe this is all a testament to my naivety, but even as a pretty logical person, and as unfounded as I know these worries to be, I am shaken.
A thousand miles away, I feel it.
Never mind that this is the single deadliest mass shooting in the history of America. Never mind that this is the worst terrorist attack on the United States since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Never mind that this was a hate crime (read: definition of terrorism). Never mind that without a semi-automatic rifle many less people would have been killed. Never mind that the man was a Muslim. Never mind that this was during a weekend of Pride celebrations all over the country. Never mind all the rest of it.
I’m making this about me because I finally feel the need to, and I understand why so many people have fought so hard for years, for their own freedom and safety. (And I’m about to make it about you too. So, be prepared.)
I’ve experienced bigots before. Just a few months ago, while standing outside our hotel in New York City, a man approached me spewing hate about Chinese people and Asians. Did it bother me? Of course. Was it scary? Definitely, a bit. Did I think twice about still going out to dinner with the man I love? No. Was I concerned about getting up and out the next morning and living as myself, hand in hand with Steven? No.
Today I did.
I haven’t quite “gotten” the idea of Pride before. Steven and I have talked about this more than a couple times – how our generation is removed from the Stonewall Riots, and the marches, and the violence, and the struggle that was the Gay Rights Movement before becoming what it is today – a celebration where LGBT men can parade down the street in glitter and not much else, for fun – not fighting for their lives.
Now I do.
I’ve not understood the struggle of coming out before. I am a part of a progressive family, Unitarian Universalist church, and a group of friends who are the most caring people I know.
I understand now, better.
So mourn, and send support, and watch the news, care for your loved ones, and I will too, but things have changed and that is why this is about me, and why I am writing to you. This is about me because I am a part of a country that is broken and hurting, where people are scared to go to vigils, or sporting events, or school. This is about me because my safety has never been more in danger (and no, that’s not just because I’m bisexual). This is about me because I have seen my college run by fear. This is about me because I am concerned about the future of a country that I have been proud to live in for almost 21 years.
This is about you for the same reasons.
I know why Pride is important now. I feel more the struggle of young men and women today who aren’t yet who their soul is trying to be, who see their proud human brothers and sisters murdered for living and loving, and who have more to be scared of now than they have ever had before. I know why I must read, write, voice, and vote my opinions. I know why I must live proudly and openly. I know why I must step out and attend the vigils and talk to friends and family about what I am feeling, because what David said to us on Saturday was right, I’ve got it pretty damn easy, even still.
So, whatever you think caused this, and whatever you think the solution is, I have a question for you: What are you going to do, and how can you do it with love?