Last night I was on the rooftop of our residence hall here at Rice University, sharing drinks and dancing and laughing with friends from the Milwaukee Teach for America corps. A few of us had gone to Rainbow on the Green, a family-centered LGBTQ celebration here in Houston, and since I hadn’t been able to attend, I eagerly listened as my friends shared their thoughts on the music, the atmosphere, the same-sex couples walking hand-in-hand with their children (“Life goals, right there,” Sean said, his hand on his heart, his eyes closing ever so slightly, and all I could do was smile and agree). And Houston Pride is two weeks away, so we’re already making plans to attend as a group.

Then this morning I was sitting at breakfast, and another friend said, “I’m kinda scared after Orlando,” and I didn’t know what she meant (my first thought was, “I haven’t been on Facebook lately” since that’s where I tend to get my news), and when she told me last night had been the largest mass shooting in US history–with more dead and injured than at Virginia Tech–and that it happened at a gay nightclub, I was stunned speechless.

It’s easy to rationalize different places and different spaces as a series of overlying Venn diagrams, here there is inclusion, here there is not, and here is that region in the middle full of tension and bated silence and awkward encounters at the bar, leaving everyone uncomfortable. But such drastic dehumanization forgets the fact that while we were celebrating our queer identity in the middle of a college university in Texas, the lives of hundreds were impacted by the bigotry born and raised in Florida.

We may be in separate places, but this space is shared: the sudden fear that all our years of visibility and changing hearts and minds has brought us nowhere, that the hatred against gay and lesbian and bi and transgender (and all other sexuality/gender-non-conforming) people is as paramount today as it was in the nineties when DOMA was passed, when Matthew Shepard was slaughtered, when Harvey Milk was assassinated.

Earlier this week someone told me that I “don’t really look gay,” and later this week I had a conversation with peers about a presenter who we all had thought was gay, and isn’t, and it only pushes to the forefront of our minds that sexual orientation and gender expression are not purely inherent, individual identities, but faces that can be inscribed upon others through the lenses of ignorance and assumption: I can move through the world being assumed straight, and that demands my authenticity even more. That privilege obliges me to be open about my sexuality and speak about all of these issues.

Because even when we speak openly, even when we keep to our own and stay in our own spaces, outsiders can and will and have come inside to shoot us down, to end our lives.

I will not be held silent. I will speak, and I will sing, and I will stand against hatred in each of its forms, before each of its faces, because if I cannot live bravely, who can?


10 thoughts on “Pulse

  1. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️😢😢

    Hilary Goldberg
    Director of Congregational Services Beth David Synagogue
    Greensboro, NC

  2. Comments evoked by frustration. I am not gay, however, I relish the day sexual orientation is completely irrelevant, and people talk about the real issues in life. We are all one.

    • I appreciate your thoughts, and I’d like to challenge the notion of sexual orientation becoming irrelevant: I think it’s an important part of our identities, and no matter how affirming our society becomes of all sexual orientations (and races, ethnicities, and gender identities, et al.), I don’t believe it’ll ever lose relevance simply because of how central it is to a person’s being. If all religious hatred were to vanish this moment, would your faith or mine become irrelevant? No, I don’t believe so. Perhaps the word I would use is “inconsequential”–a word that brings to my mind a day when no one feels marginalized for their identities, because no matter how they identify, it will not affect their place in the world, change the places where they can be open and feel safe, or deny them opportunities simply because of who they are. Yes, “irrelevant” doesn’t do it for me, but “inconsequential” seems to get closer to that ideal I think we both share.

  3. Well said. I woke to the news coverage of the horrific shooting and listened as the body count rises. It seems the news is focusing more of if it was a terrorist attack rather than a direct attack on the LGTB community. Wonder why that is? Happy you wrote about it and that people are talking about it. You’re right we can’t just stay in our bubbles, turn our backs and say ‘well it doesn’t happen here’ to any of the violence occurring.

    • I think there are very obvious reasons why they’re framing it as they are–for example, Republicans who campaign by pushing forward anti-LGBT legislation can’t mourn the death of queer people of color (especially Latinos and transgender performers) without seeming hypocritical, but if it were an act of Islamic terrorism, then they can feed it into their self-promoting propaganda. I must digress, however; such speculation could easily become a second blog post, and it diverts our attention away from the tragedy that’s before us. Tomorrow we can reprimand the media and call out the hypocrisy of our leaders; today we must mourn those who have been lost, those whose lives have been reshaped by this terrible act, and the communities desperately in need of support and understanding to continue to stand bravely in the face of those who will always oppose us.

  4. I am not totally incoherent to your struggle I hate the taking of even one life, and I am appalled at what happened at Pulse in Florida, but I think it may be a better idea not to be so explicit in public with the obvious show of emotions some people just don’t get your way of life, I am not putting down your freedom of being sexually explicit but we are going through some trying times for every sex race religion the people out there are watching for any and all mistakes to be made by everyone and anyone who does not conform to a certain way of living. I myself am not part of the Gay community please regard me as such but yet I can still see some growing in this country in the coming years by the soon to be new leader in these United States of America.

    You do whatever you need to do but be right don’t be like the rest of the world that take advantage of any opportunity to further corrupt this country thanks for listening.

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