National Heartbreak

My mind cannot even begin to process the Orlando tragedy.

After spending my entire high school existence in drama club and being an English major in college (and grad school), I have had a lot of friends and acquaintances that are members of the LGBT community. In fact, except for the two men I’ve been in long-term relationships with, pretty much every guy I’ve been close friends with in my life is gay. I certainly am a straight ally and a firm believer in the rights of the LGBT community.

So, Orlando hurts. Granted, all senseless mass casualty situations hurt. Sandy Hook hurt. The Aurora Theater hurt. Paris hurt. 9/11 certainly hurt, though I was too young at the time to truly process it. But Orlando is different. Orlando hits really close to home. I have friends who live there. I have friends who have friends that were unaccounted for until today. The fear and pain of my LGBT friends is easily perceptible.

I think about Masque. Masque is an LGBT nightclub quite similar to Pulse here in my hometown. I’ve been there many times over the years, and I have friends who are regulars there. Masque has always felt like such a safe place. Hell, that’s why a lot of us straight girls would go there in the first place. Minimal pervy guys hitting on us. Gay guys having our backs and sliding right in if a straight dude happened to be bothering us. Other than flattering-but-awkward dance invitations from the occasional lesbian, Masque has always been a place to just be free and have fun. After all, that’s what LGBT clubs are all about…freedom of expression, acceptance, and love. It is a place where they welcome you with open arms, regardless of your sexual orientation, gender, or race. It is a place where everyone can feel safe to be themselves, and I’m sure Pulse in Orlando is much the same way. To have that kind of safe space violated in such a violent and large-scale way is absolutely devastating for a community.

I also think back to Pride Month last year, when my gay best friend and I unknowingly stumbled upon a Pride party at a bar in a neighboring town on a beautiful summer night. It was just a few days after gay marriage had been legalized across the United States, and there was such a perceptible hum of joyous energy in that room that night. The legal freedom to love whomever you want, marry whomever you want. It was a national victory. Now, only a year later, it is overshadowed by national heartbreak.

So, where do we go from here? Reexamining gun laws seems like a good place to start. But, for those of us not in legislation, the answer is simple: be kind to one another and always act with love. After all, as Lin-Manuel Miranda so aptly said at the Tony’s last night, “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love.”

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