It seems impossible to take the stage – but queens have always been a light in times of darkness. Tonight we lipsynch for their lives.
— bendelacreme (@bendelacreme) June 12, 2016
I’m frustrated, terrified, and overwhelmed by the tragedy which struck on Sunday, June 12th in Orlando, FL at Pulse, a small nightclub.
For those of you who may not know, a man walked into the club with an arsenal and began firing. At the end of the chaos, when he was brought down by a SWAT team after taking hostages, 49 ended up dead and 50+ injured.
Stories across the media came out showing videos from SnapChat and various social media by the nightclub patrons and victims. We’ve learned the names, ages, and ethnicities of everyone involved. ISIL claimed responsibility. Theories about the attacker’s sexuality and homophobia were raised. Rumors of more than one shooter or that some of the victims were shot by the infiltrating SWAT spread.
Debates began less than 24 hours: Islamaphobia, gun control, LGBTQIA rights, religious extremism, blood donation bans against gays, and so forth. Allies and enemies of LGBTQIA peoples became lost in the typical whirlwind that comes post-tragedy. Already, people forgot to mourn the dead and affected.
In Oklahoma, I came to work hearing people argue about frivolous matters. I suddenly felt unsafe. When someone mentioned a gun, my shoulders tensed and I became agitated. My supervisor mentioned “this incident” proved that the next President of the United States needed to eliminate ISIL, leaving me disgusted. I found it hard to remain professional.
I emailed HR.
Then, I remembered, as a gay man, I am not protected from being fired due to being homosexual. What if this email was used against me to fire me? Keep me from receiving a raise? Or a promotion? A different kind of anger brewed inside me.
The fight isn’t over.
Thankfully, my place of employment handled it quite well. They provided documentation reminding everyone how to conduct themselves after times of tragedy, including pamphlets on how to manage stress. I wasn’t fired. One less thing for me to worry about. In fact, my HR manager asked me to keep her informed should someone disregard the email.
I had to stop going onto Facebook. Religious friends, conservative family, allies, and the ignorant all had something to say. Articles upon news articles shared. Pastors and religious leaders thankful the incident happened. Miscellaneous information bombarded me. So, I switched it off, ignored the hatred, shared only things about the victims and reactions of love.
LGBTQIA people are scared. My generation has never had to see such an act of violence. We’re too young to fully comprehend what happened to Matthew Shepherd or the 80s AIDS epidemic when LGBTQIA brothers and sisters had to bury their brethren. It took vast amounts of protests before our government listened and passed legislation which helped protect our community.
Some want to go back in the closet our of fear. We cannot do it, no matter how scared we may be. Even if we see a gun in our faces. I know that sounds easier said than done. But we can’t let these people win. What kind of life is worth living in the shadows? No, Batman doesn’t count. We have to be the leaders and protectors of future generations. I beg that you please reconsider before you make your decision.
I’ll never forget seeing the mother on the news begging to know if her son lived or died, or the text messages another mother received from her son who hid in the bathroom as he heard his killer approaching, or the mother who shielded her son from being shot thus allowing him to survive. I don’t want to put that burden on my mother, but I also don’t want any other mother to have to go through what these women went through Sunday. I cannot, and will not, go back into the closet because I’m needed.
Men and women from early 20s to 50-years-of-age, black, white, and Latinx died. Let us mourn yet never forget them.
Everything else? The random chaos which comes before the storm?
Leave it for now.