I’ve been quietly and somberly thinking about Orlando. Thinking and mourning for the people who tragically lost their lives and the ones who survived. I haven’t thought much at all about the killer. I don’t care about his body; which is to say I don’t care about what he looked like, what his occupation was, what his background was, his faith or lack thereof, I don’t care about his name. His body means nothing to me, but the hatred and hostility that he possessed in his body that transformed into unfathomable and unforgivable actions that caused the loss and trauma of other people’s bodies, I care immensely about.
2008 was the first time I ever went to a gay club. I was ripely 21-years-old, fully aware of my sexuality and sexual orientation, but terribly shy about it.
I was still trying to understand my body- trying to understand what it meant to be ‘other’. To be gay in a country, in a state that doesn’t approve nor accept someone that looks and acts and loves like me.
When I walked into the gay club alone on a Saturday night in Austin, TX I saw for the very first time how people who looked like me- the gay, the queer, the unaccepted- I saw not only how they existed in their perfect bodies, but how they also celebrated in them.
Have you ever seen a person celebrate in their body? To be truly alive in their skin?
It marveled me to the undeniable understanding that I, too, could celebrate in my skin. That I, too, could exist happy and proud in my body.
The gay club was a sanctuary to me in my early 20s, as it is to many fellow LGBTQ folks.
The gay club was a safe place; a place where you could be as vocal and vibrant in your queerness and not be judged; where you could be accepted, celebrated, loved.
Just the other day, I went to the rally in Austin, TX to celebrate my loud and proud queer self in addition to grieve with both the ones who were lost and survived in Orlando. After the rally my wife and I had a drink at a gay club with our gay friends. Before we left we hugged our friends, each of us telling the other to be safe out there- ‘out there’ being the entire fucking world- and as soon as my wife and I turned the corner a man with his wife on his arm shouted something condescending about solidarity at us while his friend who also had his wife on his arm spat back “Fuck that, I don’t give a fuck about gays being killed”. All four of them laughed. They laughed in a way that was so normal I still don’t know whether it saddened or terrified me.
Let’s be abundantly clear about this: the Orlando massacre was a direct attack on LGBTQ people by someone who was truly repulsed by LGBTQ people. It was a direct attack on not just their bodies, but on how we as queer people celebrate in them.
It is truly impossible for me to understand how one person can harbor so much hostility and hatred in their body to the point they want to exterminate not just the existence of another person, but to exterminate a person while the person is in a place of love and celebration; a place where they feel comfortable and safe in their existence and their body.
There is a sickness and addiction in this country. Too many people here are rotting in their own manifested hatred and vitriol. A hatred for the ‘other’. The other being anything gay or not white or non-Christian. Anything perceived as abnormal. There is absolutely nothing abnormal about being queer or black or Hispanic or Muslim.
The only thing that is abnormal to me is our addiction to guns and some peoples insatiable appetite for hatred.
I could go on and on and on here about gun control and reform, about toxic masculinity, about this nation’s history of violence, about this nations continued acts of violence both domestic and abroad, about privilege in all its many forms and complexities, about how there is still so much work that needs to be done in so many directions I don’t have the time or energy to mention.
It is so abundantly clear that this country has an illness. When 6 and 7 year olds get slaughtered in their seats while learning the alphabet and people say it was a hoax, when a girl gets raped behind a dumpster and people console and sympathize more with the rapist than the survivor, when black people get imprisoned and wrongfully convicted at alarmingly disproportionate rates yet we deny white privilege is a thing, when a drunk white, rich teenager in Texas kills four people with his car and we excuse it with the ‘affulenza’ plea, when a black boy is walking through a white neighborhood with nothing but skittles and we say how scary and threatening his body was doing nothing but existing, when a gay nightclub in Orlando gets obliterated in gunfire and people simultaneously tweet how happy that makes them that the world lost 50 gays while also calling for a ban on Muslims—all of these are examples that show how this country is so desperately ill and needs help.
We need help and we need to help each other.
I sadly don’t have an answer or a solution. I wish I did. But I do think that a step out of this illness is to start with ourselves, with our friends and families, our communities no matter how big or small they are. To educate ourselves in whatever direction that means. To embrace love; not chastise or question it. To question people’s hatred and vitriol. To correct a friend or neighbor when they say or do something offensive and dehumanizing. To not laugh when a friend might call a woman a bitch for not giving him or her, her number. To correct your friend when they say ‘that is so fucking gay’ to describe something and explain to them that is not okay. To explain how not all Muslims are terrorists just like not all Christians bomb abortion clinics. I think trying to be more patient than patronizing, which I know patience can be so, so exhausting and sometimes just not possible with some.
I think opening our hearts and minds, so open that someday they might just fall right out of our bodies.
Over time I have written a lot of poems about being queer, about not feeling accepted for my body and in my body. I will end with a few lines of a poem I wrote several years ago that is sadly still relevant today. This excerpt is for you #Orlando as well as for every single LGBTQ person out there. I know it is scary and sad out there right now, but I hope you continue to shine in your skin, and celebrate in your perfect and undeniable body.
This is a salute to the boys in purple coats.
To the tough girls and gay soldiers.
To the long haired dudes
and the buzz cut dykes.
To the gender queer, bi,
and straight allies.
Your heart is the holiest chapel.
Love the sharpest sword.
Your skin is a carefully stitched miracle
I hear that even God marvels
at how it fits you so well.