1997 was an interesting year to finally come out. Me and Ellen Degeneres… trend setters. Tigger and I rekindled a friendship that quickly turned into more. She hadn’t come out to her family, maybe wasn’t even sure if she was gay yet. I’d come out but only officially to my mom with the hope that it would burn through my family like a wildfire of gossip and save me the awkwardness of having to pronounce myself over and over. It did.
A couple weeks into our relationship we were walking down the streets of Portsmouth, one of the safer feeling places to be ‘out’ at the time, in the middle of the day. A man strode past us, wild hair on the top of a head and a neck that sprouted arms and legs like knobby tree limbs. A block up he turned toward us and yelled “fucking dykes”. We froze; I don’t even think we’d been holding hands. He turned back and carried on his drunken windmill of a walk towards the edge of town. In those seconds though, we had no idea what he might do. Would he keep yelling? Would he come at us? Would anyone intervene and help? I can still see it so clearly, like it was yesterday.
Even though eventually everyone in our families knew, and most of those who initially weren’t comfortable came around, it still felt very vulnerable to be open with our love. Enter The Desert Rose.
The Desert Rose was THE lesbian bar in Portsmouth. It was the one public place where we felt comfortable enough to truly be ourselves. It was open, accepting and, most importantly, safe. In that bar we didn’t have to worry about being bullied, yelled at, targeted, or assaulted for who we were. We could finally just be in our bodies without being ready to hide at any given moment.
It’s been nearly 20 years since I came out as bisexual. In that time she and I fought convention and, wanting to be mothers, we brought two beautiful children into the world. Neither of them think their situation is anything other that a normal manifestation of family life. Even though we eventually split up, we continue to coparent like normal, regular people.
However normal it seems today, it’s still not easy for everyone, by a long shot. Queer folks, teens and trans folks especially, have significant suicide rates. People, children, teens who come out are still disowned by families and communities. Trans folks are being killed every day. Cis-gender women who look too ‘male’ are being beaten up for using the women’s restroom.
It continues to be dangerous to be queer/LGBTQA in our culture. But there still is one place where it’s safe. The gay bars and clubs that are scattered around like warm, inviting homes of love (such a foreign concept to a lot of queer folks). In there it’s safe to hold hands, wear what you want, be who you are, love who you love, and exhale, finally let that breath go that you hold in all the time without even knowing it.
He violated that. I don’t know his name and even if I did I wouldn’t speak it. He took the most sacred environment in the gay community and burned it to the fucking ground.
I haven’t wept until today. I’ve been in shock, like so many others. But today I saw a meme suggesting that this was a set up, a hoax. That there’s no video so it didn’t happen.
And finally I cried. For the corrosive ignorance, for the humans so barren of compassion that this concept is anymore than a flicker of thought, and mostly, for the dead men and women who were hunted down and executed in the only place some of them ever felt at home.
My tears shifted swiftly back to rage, a fire that had been burning since I first heard, but blazed and leapt with this idea that it was a fake. Are you shitting me?
1. Who would it benefit? Those crazy soccer moms trying to take your guns away? Those poor trans folks who pretend to need to pee so they can perp your daughter? WHO?
2. I don’t even know if Pulse has cameras, but I’d be surprised if they did. A lot of people who are gay or trans are not out. It’s not safe for them. I can see why there would be no video cameras in a place where people are seeking refuge, where who they are in there could destroy who they have to be outside?
3. Who would want to see video footage of people being killed? Oh, right… the kind of person who would want to celebrate their deaths… people who even feel threatened by gay people who are already dead.
4. Why would the queer community destroy its own consecrated ground? That massacre blasted holes in the foundation of every gay bar, everywhere in the WORLD. It’s like blowing up the Vatican and sending bomb threats to every church at the same time. A place of wholeness and holiness is no longer safe across an entire planet.
There are a hundred reasons why it is, with heartbreaking certainty, real… but I’m wasting my breath, my words, and my thoughts.
My point is this… if you believe this was in any way okay and if you don’t stand up and hold up your fellow humans during this time, and listen while you’re doing it, you are the problem. Your ignorance has no place at this table. You are why 100+ people out for a night of fun were injured or killed yesterday. You are why gay teens kill themselves at alarming rates. You are why trans people are killed everyday for simply living as who they are.
Now shut up. You’re done talking.