It’s been two days since the horrific attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando and I am just now starting to process my despair regarding the event. I am sad to admit that, when I first saw the news Sunday morning, I was fairly numb; a testament to the desensitization that seems to occur with more frequent incidences such as this. I was aggravated at seeing the news of yet another preventable mass shooting, but it would take me another day before I began to settle into my grief.
What ended up sending me over the edge? The flood of requests for friends, family or any company at all from my friends in the LGBT community who were too terror-stricken to be alone. And who could blame them? The shooter was allegedly so offended at the sight of two men kissing that he felt it best to massacre other members of the gay community as they enjoyed a fun night out. Fuck, I don’t want to be alone after that. I can’t imagine the feeling of being a walking target for homophobic violence.
It’s so hard to see some of the best, most loving people in my life become paralyzed by fear for simply being different. I feel so helpless, but I’m sure it’s nothing compared to what they must be going through. What on earth could I possibly do to help alleviate their feelings of terror? I honestly have no answer and it breaks my heart. I think of how easily I could be grieving any one of them as a consequence of homophobic violence.
I think of how much I love them, and how much that love hurts right now.
I think of my friend who has opened his house to myself and my fiancé; the first person to do so when we lost our apartment. My friend who is always down to drink whiskey and watch Showgirls with me. My friend who can always be trusted to provide a delightful song and a ridiculous music video when I’m feeling useless and defeated. Then, I think about how easily he could’ve been gone if the shooter had been in a different town. I feel so lucky to still have him around, but that feeling is quickly crushed by the realization that someone is living my worst fear right now – all because the shooter was in their town.
Then, I think of another friend who has said time and again that he doesn’t feel comfortable expressing public displays of affection because, even in a city as diverse as New York, he’s not confident that he won’t become the victim of violence. My friend who has lamented the fact that the only place he feels safe being open about his sexuality and relationships is within the confines of a queer establishment. My friend who has been robbed of the ability to feel safe with his loved ones, even in his own spaces.
Then, I think of my friend who came out as trans last year. My friend who, on a daily basis, faces discrimination and the threat of violence for having the audacity to possess a bladder. My friend who acknowledges and grieves the deaths of trans men and women when the rest of society ignores them. My friend who is working to become a counselor for queer youth so that they can thrive and resist the urge to remove themselves from society. My friend whose very existence isn’t acknowledged and I fear that her death would be treated the same way.
I think of myself, my own sexual identity. And I think of the tragedy of being a queer person who cannot pass as anything else. I think of the nights I have gone to clubs, parties and parades and hooked up with women. I think of how, as a feminine-looking bisexual woman, I have the privilege of appearing how I want in order to best protect myself in dangerous situations. I have the ability to remove myself from a queer identity, not because I don’t like it, but because I don’t require the protection from the community. I think of how many people don’t have a heterosexual relationship or appearance that offers them protection from attacks like these. I think of how lucky I am.
I think of the pride celebrations occurring throughout the country this month; the month that has been picked in order to honor the Stonewall Riots. A month that was picked in order to celebrate the birth of the gay rights movement – a movement that was not conceived out of a desire to show off, but to survive. I think of how many people I have heard demean pride parades as places of debauchery, perverted sexuality and depravity. “Why do they have to be so public about it?” I hear from people who claim to be fine with the queer community, as long as they never have to acknowledge its existence. I think of how difficult it must be for people to come out of their private sanctuaries in order to celebrate their existence in public, just to be shown this weekend that they are not welcome in either space.
I think of all of this and I become horribly grief-stricken. It seems that every hour some new, awful realization floods my brain and I can’t think of anything I can do or say to make it better. I think of proactive measures that can be taken – blood donations, petitions to sign, volunteer opportunities and things of the like. All of those are wonderful and I have done what I can. But that doesn’t mitigate the sadness and the fear. I don’t know what will.
All I think about are the utterly wonderful people I know who are suffering right now. I wish I could absorb their sadness and crush it. I wish I could promise them safety and security. I wish I could confidently tell them that it gets better, but right now, I feel nothing is guaranteed.
I don’t know what I can say or do to help, so I will simply say I love you.
Molly Regan is an improviser and writer in Baltimore. She likes chicken pot pie, Adam Scott’s butt and riot grrl.