I’ve never been the type to write blogs. In fact, that is the part of this job that puts me farthest outside of my comfort zone.
But I couldn’t let today pass by like any other.
365 days ago, we lost 49 beautiful souls after the Pulse club shooting in Orlando, Florida.
One year ago today, one man stole 49 promising young lives, and many are still dealing with the consequences of his hateful actions.
But this isn’t about him. This is about the anniversary of the passing of so many beautiful souls, all of whom were gathered together in a place that was supposed to be safe, meant to be special and – most importantly – theirs to exist.
This isn’t even about how Donald Trump, our president, has taken the time away from his angry tweeting schedule to acknowledge Pride Month.
This is about the right to exist in spaces that are supposed to be safe – supposed to be ours.
I’ve been out of the closet for almost 3 years, and the coming out never truly stops. Every single day I feel like I have to be careful of whom I tell about my sexual orientation or about my partner for fear that I’ll be judged and, on a larger scale, that I’ll be physically threatened or injured as a response to hate.
Meanwhile, because of the heteronormative nature of the society we currently live in and the conservative nature of the area where I work my day job as a barista, I cannot talk about my partner as freely as my heterosexual coworkers can. There is always risk in making yourself vulnerable, coming out to those you truly don’t know if you can trust or not.
I want to hold my girlfriend’s hand when we browse the dollar section at Target. I want to be able to go to the mall, or a concert, or walking down a busy street while on vacation out of town – but the fear lingers. The fear that we’ll be the next victims of a hate crime driven by prejudice and misunderstanding, the fear that me or my partner, the love of my life, could be physically or verbally harassed simply because we chose to be affectionate with one another.
I want to be able to talk to regulars at work about my girlfriend without the fear that I’ll accidentally drop the pronoun that outs me. I want to be honest with people who respect me, and my job, and take an interest in my life to some degree.
Before you call me a special snowflake millennial hellbent on political correctness and safe spaces, let me explain myself – when I go to Fab in the Tower District on Friday nights, I can hold my girlfriend’s hand and be proud that we have the privilege to love each other.
When I’m in those types of spaces, I don’t have to worry about judgmental glares from older men or women, or the hushed voices of children asking their parents why two girls are holding hands – both of which are things that have actually happened to me. When I’m in those spaces, the thought of being physically or verbally harmed out of hate rarely crosses my mind.
And then Pulse happened.
People just like me, yearning for a place to feel loved and whole and accepted – let go of their inhibitions and fears and were able to just be – until they weren’t. The space was safe until it wasn’t.
Though that fear lingers and the voices telling us we’re sinners and will eventually burn in the hell sometimes ring so loudly, the cries of pride and joy at finally being able to live authentic lives drown the others out.
There are people who want to silence queer voices – be it through protests or conversion camps or hateful policies that don’t protect LGBT+ people in the workplace or schools – but as the Mexican proverb says, “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”
We must move forward and thrive, and we must live out loud like the 49 bright lights would have in their own lives.
Let’s pulse forward – for them.