Last week I woke up, sat at my laptop, and immediately saw my Facebook feed full of sorrow and grief and shock and outrage. I learned what happened in Orlando. And I was shocked, devastated and maybe a little numb.
It’s hard to explain just how it feels – being gay and grieving Orlando. No one owns grief, but the LGBT people feel this deeper than anyone else. Deeper than mothers whose children are alive and well, deeper than other Florida residents, even deeper than our allies who are valued and appreciated and necessary. What’s harder is that this is what being gay is for most people – every day. I flashed back to the Aurora, Colorado shooting in 2012. The theater is twenty minutes from our house. I woke up that morning to anxious texts from a cousin wanting to know if we were safe.
I had a lot to sort out. About living as a gay person and dealing with homophobia and hate every single day. About gun violence in general. Where I was when learned about Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Charleston, San Bernardino. These are all moments tattooed to my psyche. All the loss. It moved in a montage and that montage started to play against the montage of homophobia I have experienced. Every time I was attacked, beaten, harassed, every name I was called, every comment received, and then it moved on to incidents I have witnessed – friends and later words said to my husband.
Every day this is our reality. Some people want to ignore it. It’s unpleasant. Sad. Maybe some people internalize guilt they shouldn’t feel because they’re Christian or straight or otherwise privileged. But ignoring it makes those people complicit in it. Hate is something you have to choose or refuse. There is no middle ground. You love and stand up, or you hate or allow others to hate those you love without doing or saying anything about it. It’s a choice.
I wrote an essay that weaves my personal experiences with homophobia, hate and misogyny with gun violence, mass shootings and gun sense/reform. I wrote it Sunday. I received encouragement from many writers, and a few editors of national publications. And on Thursday night (technically Friday morning) I was informed it had found a home. The Huffington Post picked up my essay, which is really an essay/article hybrid as it includes statistics, history and sources with my own personal experiences. I didn’t write it from a place of anger; I was still too shocked and devastated when I wrote it to be angry.
The first time I felt angry was on Tuesday. Now I go back and forth between anger and sadness. With this grief, I will never reach acceptance. I’m still grieving. And next week I’ll still be grieving. And next month and so on. Because this happened in our version of a church if you will. It wasn’t religious, but it was a sanctuary – our safe space to be who we are and love openly. And now it’s not. We lost an entire generation of LGBT Latino/people of color that night. Knowing that, I’m not sure my heart will ever be fully mended.
It’s funny; this essay/article is my first piece to be featured on a site of this magnitude. But I can’t celebrate it. It doesn’t feel right. But I wrote it because I felt it was important to go out in the world. Some things you write for you or for fun or just because. Some things are entertaining, some social commentaries but they aren’t important. THIS is important. I couldn’t shake it or focus on anything else. And now that it’s found a home I still feel that way.
I invite you to read my article. Please share widely. Like it on the website, leave a comment.
Because I still feel like it’s important and it’s out there but it still is something I feel the need to share. Like it has to be seen. Maybe it is one way I work through the grief. Or maybe it’s because this piece is me reaching out for a hand, for understanding, for compassion, and for action.
My heart is still with (breaking) for Orlando. It feels like a part of it always will be.