This morning, after the most deadly shooting in US history which also happened at a gay nightclub on Latino night, has me all tied up in knots.
Just a year ago, we finally won the right to marry all across this vast nation. I felt such a sense of pride and accomplishment on that day. It’s something that I and many others gave years – decades of our lives, even – to bring about. And on that day I felt different. Accepted. Finally, as never before, a first class citizen in my own country.
Mark and I have started holding hands now when we walk down the streets of Sacramento – something that I, even a year ago, was often still afraid to do. Suddenly all those dirty looks I’d always assumed were directed at us seemed to melt away. I could stand tall, proud of who I was, and unafraid.
And then, Pulse.
Suddenly I am back in the old days of living in the closet, looking over my shoulders and fearful for my safety, because I am a faggot. I choose that word deliberately. It’s how some people in this country, and many around the world, still see Mark and I. It twists up their gut to see two men like us together, to see an innocent kiss. It makes them angry, or afraid, or weak. And sometimes they act on those feelings.
It’s too soon to know exactly why this animal committed the atrocity that he did. But this horrible act has sent a chill wind through our community, exacerbated by the arrest of another gunman who was apparently targeting L.A. Pride.
Mark and I have discussed this whole thing at length over the last 24 hours. And for me, it comes down to this: even if we manage to convince 99% of the population to accept us, it only takes one individual, filled with hate and loathing, to attack us and to strike fear into our hearts.
I don’t want to be afraid, but I’m human, and fear is a natural response to an event such as this. I am afraid for San Francisco Pride, where we plan to be in two weeks, and I am afraid for all the other places where we make ourselves open targets for this hatred.
But I am angry, too. I want revenge, and I want blood. I want to shake up all of those whose complacency allowed this to happen. I want to rage at those who always want more and more guns. I want to condemn those who call for violence against our community and feed these things. I want to strike back, to make those who inflicted this pain upon me and the ones I love feel real pain themselves.
And yet I know that path would only lead to more violence and destruction. So I must step back, take a deep breath, and respond in a way that feels wholly unnatural at the moment. With love.
Mark and I attended a candlelight vigil last night in Sacramento for the victims of the assault at Pulse. More than sixty people came, including a number of local faith leaders. There was some anger, and a world full of sadness. But there were also those stood up to pray for the parents and family of the gunman, who, by his actions, have been condemned to a personal hell that few of us can understand.
And I remember seeing the Orlando police spokeswoman on TV when she said she is a member of our community, and that we are a community of love. We must respond accordingly.
It’s not easy, but I will not allow the actions of an animal like this to dictate my own response.
This is a time for our community to come together, to show the world we are not worthy of the word faggot, or tranny, or lesbo, or any of the other words they hurl at us – that we are people of dignity, people of love.
Your color, your orientation, your gender, your physical appearance – these things do not matter to me. You all are my family, and only together can we get through this whole.