The lady at the Delta airlines check-in counter yesterday smiled as I handed her my boarding pass. And as the corners of my mouth turned up to greet her in return, the muscle movement felt foreign. I realized how little I’d smiled since reading Sunday morning’s “breaking news” email from the New York Times. “Gay nightclub…worst mass shooting…unimaginable slaughter…”
The words had jumped off the page like slaps to my face. Tears streamed as I imagined the horror. I thought of my 26-year-old son Harry, and as much as I needed to hear his voice at that moment, I didn’t want to be blubbering into the phone. He was in Berlin, where I knew he had been out dancing and having fun in the city’s all-night clubs. Then I thought of the raw pain of the moms of Orlando’s latinx club kids, and my tears flowed harder.
I realize it will take more than tears and outrage to stop hate crimes against the queer community.
I spent the day alone, weepy and numb. I refused to turn on the television. The images in my head were real enough. I decided to go to Michael’s as planned to buy for materials for my Pride March sign. It was going to help me deal with the shock and grief. I was surprised when the young lady who rang up my purchase was so cheerful. I wondered if she even knew about the victims in Orlando. And, again, as I reached into my bag for my wallet, I felt my eyes well up.
The more reports I read about a lone gunman’s massacre using military-style assault weapons, the more I was able to move from sorrow to outrage over the enormity of this violent hate crime against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and gender-noncomforming people. And I seethed, too, at the easy accessibility of semi-automatic weapons.
Monday night I met up with friends from PFLAG at the vigil at the Stonewall Inn for the victims of the massacre. I realized how much I needed to grieve with other people, to hold the hands of those next to me, to shout “Say their names,” and to read signs of strength and promise and hope. One sign in particular fortified me. It read, “I will not be afraid. You cannot scare me.”
I thought of my son who wears heels and his unabashed confidence and resilience. And then I imagined the unimaginable: To be feared and hated just for who I loved or how I loved. To be the victim of continual verbal or physical assaults. To know I could be fired from my job, denied a lawful marriage license, turned away from a retail store or not served in a restaurant just for being myself.
I realize it will take more than tears and outrage to stop hate crimes against the queer community. So, as the healing of our grief advances, so must our action. And while filibusters (finally!) for common sense gun laws are progress, they are not enough. We must continue to speak out for the freedom, equality, and safety of LGBTQ+ family members, friends, youth, and co-workers. And, perhaps most importantly, we much teach our children – those who will truly change the world — to accept others, to celebrate our diversity, and to expect no less of us.
IF YOU LIKED THIS POST YOU’LL PROBABLY ALSO LIKE THESE: