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.”