Yesterday, a terrible thing happened. A lone gunman went into a LGBT+ nightclub in Orlando, Florida and decided to start shooting. He killed a lot of people and more are expected to die within the week from their injuries. According to the authorities, he was a member of ISIS and they’ve claimed the act. Families have been broken and friends are in shock.
It’s times like these it’s hard not to have someone that’s there for you who understands. My dad, as much as I love him, isn’t convinced that this attack was specifically against the LGBT+ community. In his opinion, Pulse was just a popular nightclub that the shooter was familiar with—a convenient target.
But, in my gut, I know better.
I know that this attack was against people like me.
I also know that this attack was against people, in general. Against the people who didn’t conform to this gunman’s view of ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’. Against Christians, against Americans, against women and the men who accept them, against non-radical Muslims, against everything that this man hated, which was a lot. And that knowledge hurts. That knowledge makes me sick to my stomach.
In my writing and my life, I try to be honest and build an environment of love and happiness. I fully believe that one person can make a positive difference in the world if they believe and try with everything that they have. But, nearly every day, I have to make a choice.
I have to decide whether to be honest about who I am. I have to wonder if revealing my sexuality is going to inspire violence to me and mine. I have to wonder if that Vietnam veteran who’s chatting with me about ‘what a lovely wife I’ll make some lucky man’ would hurl curses at me if he knew that I love women. I have to wonder if my innate ability to pass for a heterosexual will get me beaten in the parking lot after work because a nice but homophobic man asked me out on a date and wouldn’t take no for an answer, until I told him I was gay.
I have to wonder if I’ll lose my job because the head of the company I work for made an off-color, homophobic joke at an executive business meeting and saw nothing wrong with it. I have to wonder if each new co-worker I get is going to be okay with my queer identity or whether I’ll have to hide it in order to avoid getting bullied and labeled as a troublemaker. And now, I have to wonder whether I’ll need to worry about being shot in a nightclub or at Pride, the only places I have to go when the pressure to be something I’m not gets to be too much.
People keep trying to make this shooting about the identity of the shooter, rather than the identifiers of his victims, but I can’t make that distinction. For me, those identifiers hit too close to home. It reflects the world that I’m trying to change and shows me how far there is still to go, how deep that darkness of hatred and ignorance goes. It makes me sad and scared and angry. It makes me feel powerless. It makes me want to grieve.
My heart goes out to the families of the victims and to all of the people whose lives were torn apart by this event. My thoughts are with all of you, always.