I woke up this morning, excited and eager to head downtown for what has become a ritual of mine ever since I came out of the closet as a bisexual/pansexual individual on National Coming Out Day in 2012. Today is Philadelphia’s annual Pride Day, and me and one of my closest queer friends had full intention of getting together, hitting up the parade and celebrating what it is to be young, alive, and authentic to our true selves in America.
Instead, the first thing I saw when opening my computer were the phrases #PrayForOrlando and #MassShooting and #GunControlNow. With fear mounting in my chest, I clicked these tags to see who had died this time. Turns out, I was opening a link to discover that the single most deadly mass shooting in the history of the United States of America happened as I slept, at a gay club in Orlando.
The lives of my LGBT brothers and sisters were snuffed out as they celebrated a month that’s supposed to be about love and standing up to bigotry. Instead, their lives were ended. They were not lost. They weretaken. Murdered. Ripped out of this world simply because they didn’t fit some stupid text book ideal that we are all straight cisgendered Americans.
As I try to process the utter devastation in my own heart at these tragic events, I find myself reduced to shuddering sobs when the empathy in me leads me to imagine what it must be like for the friends and families of the over 50 human beings who were torn from the world. I’ve nearly vomited thinking about it.
But what makes me sicker, is the reaction I see going viral. “Of course it was a Muslim!” and “This is why you can’t take my guns!” and “That’s what you get for being gay and going to a club!”
What about Sandy Hook? What about those children? What about the students of UCLA? The parishioners at Charleston AME? The movie theater goers of Aurora? Did a single one of those innocent lives deserve to be ended because of one person’s anger and rage and hate?
Because let me be PERFECTLY clear: it is not religion or lifestyle or even guns that made ANY of these shootings happen. It was hate. Hate. I will say it again: hate murdered those people last night.
It was hatred of being bullied that killed the children at Columbine. It was racist hatred that killed the 9 at their church in Charleston. It was homophobic hatred that led to last night — now the worst shooting in American history. Not God. Not guns. Hate.
Are there extremists in this world? Of course. Should there be stricter gun control? Abso-fucking-lutely. (Our level of gun violence is a joke to the world at this point.) But at the root of every killing we see blazing across the ticker on the bottom of the CNN screens and filling up our news feeds with despair, stems from the hatred buried deep in individuals that were never shown the love that could have saved them. We can never as a nation hope to choke out the weeds of hatred in our hearts without planting love wherever we go.
Despite the aching in my heart, I donned my LGBTQIA pride flag necklace that I bought on the 1st anniversary of my coming out, and I went into the Philadelphia Gayborhood, where there was displayed nothing but love and solidarity. People holding hands, wearing their pride all over, showing the world that we are a strong people who WILL NOT be broken. LGBT Pride Month stands as a response to the violence and hatred against us.
You can hate us all you want. But we keep loving anyway.
So while I’m mad as hell at the state of this world, the only thing I intend to spread right now is love. Love for the families of those affected and love for you, reader. Because even if you’re a bigot who happened upon this and stand for everything I’m against, the God I know and serve believes in one thing above all:
Three things will last forever — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
To everyone in Orlando, and to my family in the queer community, you have my eternal love and solidarity.