This is the first post in a series of people from the LGBT community reacting to the tragedy in Orlando. In the wake of 50 live lost and countless traumatized survivors and loved ones, now more than ever it is important to band together. We need to use the voices we have to spread a message of love, a message of compassion and a message that we will not stand for this or horrors like it. The following is a post sent to me by Catherine Rice via Facebook Messenger.
Today my heart is broken. Last night, while I joked with new and old friends over Ramen in downtown Charleston an evil man walked into a gay bar in Orlando. He murdered fifty people in cold blood with an AR-15. The last things these queer people knew was pain and fear in a place that was supposed to be safe. Since the events of Stonewall our bars have been pretty well respected. LGBT people weren’t welcome in straight bars so we made our own. We filled them with color and music and laughter. We filled them with love and respect for each other. We filled them with vibrant community- real community.
Last night that was shattered. My community- a community that loved and helped me, and who I loved and helped in return- is left devastated by this shattering violation. Today investigators entered the night club over the sound of ringing phones of dead LGBT men and women as their love ones desperately tried to reach them. The bodies of these dead LGBT individuals will be returned to families that may or may not accept them, that may or may not bury them according to their chosen names and identities, that may or may not respect the partners they have left behind to mourn them.
When the supreme court gave all couples the right to marry we did not win the war for human rights. There is still suffering, there is still inequality, there is still danger in coming out. So, in this atmosphere, in this circumstance what is the way forward?
First, we must mourn. Tomorrow I will gather with the community I love and we will mourn what we have lost. The loss of these individuals can not be overstated. The loss to our feeling of safety when we walk into the bars and clubs of our communities can not be regained. Never again will I walk into a gay club and feel, however naively, safe. I’ll always be looking over my shoulder, watching who comes in. Wondering if this is the person, who in their anger and fear at anything different, will be the next to shatter my community. We must give our grief and horror an outlet.
Second, we must move forward in unity. We must ignore the words of religious people who seek to use this for their own agenda. We are not broken. We are not wrong. God does not hate us. Where there is injustice, we must sow justice. In our pain, and grief, and anger we must fight against prejudice. For every ounce of grace that might be expected of another community we must come together and show a hundred times that. We must not let fear compromise who we are. We are strong. We are proud, and we have always been a community that comes together against opposition. We have a unique ability to fight evil without compromising our identity.
As for our straight allies, I can’t say enough to explain how much we need you now. We need you to offer us your spaces as we hold vigils. We need you to let us weep on your shoulders. We need you to listen to us and our stories however different someone may look, or seem. We are all human. We all have blood pumping underneath our skin and hearts that feel pain.
Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person elected to a major public office, said that the true perversion was the slaughter of people in the name of religion. He believed that coming out was the first step in the fight for equality. We must tell people we exist and we must not be silent. We must break down the closet doors and let love, and strength, and honesty shine in.
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