One month ago today something horrible happened. I’m sure you know what it is because everyone knows it by name. And if it takes you a minute, I’ve only written about it three times (this is the fourth) in the last month, so if I have any followers that read each post they are probably like “Enough already! Move on.” And that’s what I’m trying to do, I think. Move on. But it’s not that simple. To be as clear as I possibly can be – it’s just fucking hard.
Orlando still hits a raw nerve, and I think that nerve is going to remain raw. I think perhaps it should.
The day of Orlando – June 12, I wrote and grieved and just sat in my chair – stunned. I could not cry. I couldn’t understand so much. The hatred. The senseless death. People cheering on the killer because gays are akin to perverted deviants. Another example of American culture – the part that values guns and greed over innocent lives. I couldn’t understand any of it. And really, I still can’t.
I wrote an essay that day, which weaved my own experiences with homophobia and misogyny with gun violence facts and gun sense. The Huffington Post picked it up and the response was not what I was expecting at all. People reached out to me on various social media platforms. Many said they cried while reading it and I kept thinking, “Was it because I wanted to cry when I wrote it?”
For many the response was positive, even among those who I was expecting to either ignore it, or be offended by it. But it also shook loose a few people who still had work to do, and that fall out is something I am still dealing with. Because it made me realize one important thing: I can no longer tolerate tolerance. I don’t care if someone does not act out against gay people but are not entirely okay with them either. I don’t care if you use slurs or simply don’t want to acknowledge “the gays” or their reality. I do not care anymore – I’m done.
And so I’ve cut some people loose. Not forever, but until they can get over the seeds of bigotry in their hearts, I will not engage. Because I feel like no one deserves to just be tolerated, and tolerance and acceptance are very different words with very different meanings.
The first time I became angry over Orlando was two days later. I finally cried and couldn’t seem to stop, but then it became something else. Something I am much more familiar with than I am crying. Anger. Defiance. The desire to push back and push back hard. And I wrote – this thing. 400 words of prose/lyric/verse – I don’t fucking know. It flew out of my like a poem, raw and fast and furious. It felt like I was bleeding out onto the page.
11:52am June 14, 2016
I finally lost it. I didn’t expect it. This morning was the first time the seeds of anger crept in. I was too shocked, horrified, devastated to feel anything except profound loss, sadness. My heart broke. But I didn’t cry. I didn’t weep. I didn’t break down. I stood taller. I wrote about it. Called for action. Comforted friends. I wrote about it.
I laughed for the first time in days. It was a brief chuckle. It was a split second feeling of empowerment. “We’re coming for you,” I thought, envisioning a PRIDE Parade marching up to a line of all the gun nuts and the entire NRA establishment. “We’re coming for you.” They should be afraid. Because “us bitches” get things done.
And I chuckled. And then for the first time I broke. I finally cried. I’m still crying. It’s an awful ugly mess. Red-faced, tears coating everything. But I can’t turn it off.
But I’ve been broken enough before to know that eventually I’ll mend. With new perspective.
And we still rise.
Every day we have to stand up because so many push us down. But now we won’t just stand up.
We. Will. Rise.
And we will come. For the gun nuts. The NRA and their pocket politicians. To those who mean well but turn a blind eye to what THEIR elected officials and people and institutions are supporting, open your eyes. Stop. Just STOP. And be ready. Because we’re coming.
And we will prevail. Because we have something greater than all those who oppose us.
True Courage, because we must to survive in the world that we do – every day.
True Conviction, because we must to survive in the world that we do – every day.
And that is the most powerful thing. The only thing that can fight back the hate that tries to creep into our hearts as we look for someone or something to blame – the thing that brings us down to their level. Is love.
The only thing that can fight back the ignorance and fear is love and understanding.
The only thing that can fight back homophobia, internalized or externalized is love.
What we have. What we are. What we stand for.
(Oh, and we’re also coming for your guns.)
The next week was Father’s Day, but I didn’t wish anyone a happy one. I couldn’t. Whenever I went to post something on Facebook acknowledging the wonderful fathers I know, I felt cold. What about the fathers who lost their children one week ago, today? I couldn’t stop thinking it. It filled my chest and my throat until I choked on it. And then the few times I could get past it I thought, What about all the fathers who didn’t know their kids were gay? Are they grieving them right now, or are they more relieved?
It’s horrible but my mind went there because I knew with some sort of certainty: This is going to happen. And I am angry. This makes me angry. Parents who cannot accept their children for who they are makes me angry. A stranger having this thought makes me angry but a parent – blood – it makes me fucking furious to the point that I am shaking.
And it did happen. One victim in the Orlando massacre had a father who refused to claim his body. He had to be claimed by other distant relatives. It makes me weep and want to scream and punch something all at once. This is the world we live in.
Orlando made me realize that as much activism as I have done for LGBT causes – both equal rights and issues (marriage equality, job protection, safety in schools, bullying, suicide, domestic violence, hate crimes) I have still been complicit in a way. Because loved ones, people I want to have a relationship with, I let them tolerate me. Tolerate my husband. Tolerate all of the people like us. I told myself “they’re doing the best they can do” but that isn’t true. Being gay isn’t a lifestyle, but being a bigot is. That is a choice that someone makes. You can call it what you want, but it comes down to exactly that. People who struggle with accepting gay people are struggling with fear and hate. And I want to be the bigger person. I want to be patient. I want to lead by example. I want to show them that we’re people too. But why should I fucking have to?
And that’s it. I’m out. It may not be graceful and it may not be “right” but I can’t not call someone out, no matter who they are to me, when this is happening. Because the seeds of hate they have in their hearts is no different from the shooter’s. Or the college guys who tried to run me over with their truck/SUV/grey sedan (three times people, I am not confused). Or the guys who used to call me faggot or push me down the steps or beat me. They are no different from the funeral protestors. They are exactly the same. No you cannot hide behind niceties (well I don’t use those words) and you cannot hide behind God. If you have ever worn Polyester or eaten shrimp or pork, or done countless other things you’ll be joining us in Hell, Leviticus tells us so. So first stone and all that. Enough.
I have had enough.
After Orlando not one relative reached out to me. Not one said they were sorry. Not one of them understood how this was an assault on the gay community, just like it was on the Latino/POC community. It was. Don’t pretend like you don’t know. It was. And silence is killing us all very slowly. I thought I was better than that. I’m out, proud, and my life has been about making the world a better and safer place for people like me. But I let a friend spew “don’t judge me for my religion, certain things I will not compromise on” or a relative see nothing but anger in my Huffington Post piece – a piece I wrote before feeling any. Because that person was projecting their own hate onto my grief. And I’m through with it.
One month later and I am still crying, but even more I am angry. I am defiant. I WILL NOT TAKE IT ANYMORE. So fine, label me angry or militant or difficult. Label me confrontational or impatient. Question my compassion. Because my anger is justified – righteous. It is right. And I will not allow myself to hate on others, but I will let this anger lend me strength to squash hate when I see or hear it. “Lifestyle” let me tell you what a lifestyle is. Discomfort over two men or two women expressing their love for one another. Yes, I will call your bigotry out. Because I am tired.
Tired of being angry. And angry that I am so tired.