The news tells me to take a moment of silence at 6:00 pm.
And I will do so, in honor of the 50 people dead, and the others still fighting for life.
But I can’t remain in silence. Not this day. Not in this moment and after this event.
I need to cry. I need to scream. I need to freak the fuck out!
And so do you.
This cannot happen anymore. It needs to end. Gun control vs. protecting yourself needs to be seen as what it is: Complete Bullshit! 50 people died, with an officer on site … apparently after the officer already fired shots at the gunman. That gunman bought guns, legally, after being considered a possible terrorist on multiple occasions, according to NPR, and only days before this terrible event. And that should not have happened. That should not be able to happen. That should never have been possible and it should never be considered acceptable.
Look, you can argue all you want, but that won’t make it necessary for anyone in the United States of America to own an assault rifle—EVER. And your excuses of hunting or protecting your family are not valid. No research shows that you are safer with a gun. All of it says you are more likely to die from a gun if you own a gun. Some studies say four times more likely. And hunting I have done. You need no more than a shotgun to make one hell of a dead beast. And a shotgun is actually preferable if you hunt different sorts of game. If you can’t manage it with a shotgun, you are a shitty hunter anyway, and should probably just give it up. And, for that matter, you don’t need a gun at all. If you wanted to remain true to the hunting roots of the country, then you would fashion yourself a bow and some arrows. If you are hunting for meat, great—as long as you are doing so legally and as safely as possible. If you are hunting for sport, you are a disgusting excuse for a human in the first place.
Yep. I said it. Said it all.
And I am going to keep on saying it forever.
But the thing I need to say even more loudly than the gun control things. (And that shocks even me, because I am a champion of gun laws and constantly telling you that my neighborhood needs you to care about people being shot here, not about hunting or protecting from imaginary threats somewhere else.) What I need to scream and cry over is that this happened at a gay club just days before my own city begins to celebrate Pride.
And there has been no official connection made at this time between the gunman and the gayness. There is not, it would seem, any information to state that this was anything but a randomly chosen Latin Night packed with people who may identify in some gay, lesbian, transgendered, bisexual, asexual, queer, gender-queer, pansexual, sapiosexual, intersex, or other than strictly heterosexual way. (Feel free to add your identifiers in the comments if I missed you. I’ll make sure you have representation next time I approach the subject.) But the fact that there is no known connection doesn’t mean it isn’t connected for me.
It is connected for me.
It is connected for me, because while I am not an “out and proud” anything, since I have yet to fully define what my sexuality might be, I identify as something other than strictly heterosexual. I identify with this group and this cause and this marginalization and this struggle and this attack whether the gunman intended to target me or no. Because how can you not see violence against a group you identify with or as in a way that makes you feel like a target?
My first real “introduction” to gayness came in a sad form. My cousin had contracted HIV, and he was dying of AIDS. I’m not sure if having AIDS gave him the strength to come out, or if coming out was legitimized by him having AIDS. But I don’t think that in the early 90’s he would have come out to his hyper-religious, right-wing relatives without the HIV being part of the equation. I can’t imagine a scenario where he would be treated with anything but disdain if he didn’t have the added “bonus” of being near to death. You can’t be mad at somebody while they are dying. You don’t scream at people who are dying and accuse them and call them names. The dying part outweighs the gay part.
But the fact is, when I was a sophomore in college and would tell people at my Christian liberal arts college that my cousin was dying of AIDS, the ONLY response that I ever heard leave their lips upon hearing that news was, “Is he gay?” Nobody who didn’t know the man seemed to give a crap about the dying part. They wanted to know if he was disgustingly, salaciously gay.
And he was.
And I loved him no less at any moment because he was gay.
He still holds the title for favorite cousin on that side of the family. And my daughter was named in his honor.
At that time in my life, sexuality was not the only way that my religious leanings and my life were crashing into one another in annoying and disturbing ways, so the situation with my cousin wasn’t something that I would dwell on. But it wouldn’t be many years later that I started to wonder what the heck was wrong with me, because I felt in love with women. And that couldn’t be right.
I’m not sure why I thought it couldn’t be right. I didn’t mean that in a good vs. evil kind of right, but just in the sense that I didn’t find it believable. I liked men. I liked sex with men. I had lots of sex with men. And yet, I fell deeply in love with a young woman. She is still counted among the most loved and most influential and most important people in my life’s history. She was everything. She was amazing. She still is, I think. And until/unless she reads these words, she might have no idea that she was my first and truest love to date. We never had a sexual relationship, but I was never afraid to curl up next to her and be held, or to kiss her lovely round face and rub my hands over her bald head and feel all the good feelings that could ever be had. She meant the world to me. I sacrificed much for her, and I would do it again a thousand times over. And I never knew that I was in love with her until many years later. And I never voiced it until now.
Because it seems wrong to not say it. It seems wrong not to tell you this story of my life and my development and my movement from straight to queer after what happened in the early moments of this day in history. It seems wrong not to align myself openly, distinctly, and deeply with every person who has other than the heteronormative standards our society espouses as correct and righteous and good. Because any society that can still hold on to judgment against love and hold on to personal safety over and above the safety of all others, is shit. And I want no part in it.
But this is the society I live in. I can’t leave—I haven’t got the means to get to Canada or the Netherlands, much less take up residency there. So, if I can’t leave it, I must change it. And I start by ending my own silence.
I have alluded to the fact that I am queer on several occasions, but I have never been overt in claiming the queer as my tribe. I have deliberately been vague at times, because there are places and people who are not open to a lifestyle that isn’t heteronormative. And because I pass as heteronormative VERY easily (some would even call me a hedonistic, man-devouring, slut!), I don’t need to be out. I don’t need to use the word “partner” and make you question my sexuality. I don’t need to hold hands with a woman, or get married to a woman, or even date a woman, ever. And that is because I have the choice. I’m not a lesbian. I’m not gay. I love men AND I love women. So, I could live my whole life without ever expressing any interest in women.
Except I can’t not express it today. I can’t pretend that I am “normal” and go on living while 50 people die while others celebrate Pride. I can’t stand by and watch that happen and not be broken into shards and weep. I can’t stay in a closet of convenience while my best friends in the world come out to me, because they don’t have the choice I have. They don’t love both men and women. And in the eyes of the religious or the right-wing or the tea partiers or the whatever, they love the wrong gender.
So, I am taking a stand today. I am voicing it. I am making my public declaration and letting the world know, in no uncertain terms, that I am NOT strictly heterosexual. And whether I am pansexual, or bisexual, or sapiosexual, or something entirely new and different doesn’t really need to be flushed out and finalized for me to take this stand and make this declaration. All you need to know for now is that I don’t stand with the LGBTQIA+ community because I am empathetic, though I am. And I don’t stand with this community because I am committed to equal rights and human rights, though I am. But I stand with this community because I am a PROUD part of this community.
My darling Kaytebug, I was in love with you. Rachel, I spent half of yoga class lusting after you. Kate, your brain made me want to hold on to you and kiss you for a lifetime. Jess, I would marry you.
And I didn’t know all of that at the time.
There weren’t any models for lesbianism around in my sphere until Ellen. Willow came along too late for me to have had a teenage breakthrough based on her love life (though many of my friends loved that Buffy character best primarily because they could identify with her love life). And I am not a lesbian, so there was no reason for me to consider why I only liked women, because I could just spend my time dating, marrying, procreating with, divorcing, living with, and having sex with men. I still can (excepting the procreation part—I’m almost 42 and haven’t a uterus). But I am to the point where I won’t.
Not that I won’t be with men. I absolutely will. But I will also allow myself the freedom to be with women. Or smart people. Or dog lovers. Or whatever qualifying aspects I might wish to place upon my sexual preference at some time.
But the thing that I needed to say today—the thing that ached to be said—was that I am one of you/them (depending on where you place yourself on the Kinsey scale). I am one of you, LGBTQIA+ community. And I am not one of you, hating-upon-people-and-judging-love-as-sin community.
I am queer and proud.
And I will not keep it hidden and will not be silent. I will speak my truth in solidarity and strength.
And I will mourn and rage and fight against attacks like the one today with my full voice. I will chant and sing and march and yell and I will refuse to stop until change comes and lives are protected and the NRA is not. I will refuse to stop until it is no longer shocking or disappointing or strange for anyone to come out—and coming out won’t be a thing, because we will all be able to live in our truth, and see models of our sexuality, and accept ourselves as we are without being questioned and without being attacked.
I won’t be silent until my friend can bring the love of his life to weddings. I won’t be silent until everyone I know has safe access to the bathroom of their choosing. I won’t be silent until the disabled and queer intersection is recognized. I won’t be silent until people accept my sexuality as equally normal with heterosexuality—because it is normal. It isn’t weird or wrong. And you cannot find an argument strong enough to discount what I know in the core of my being and experience every day—that gender and sexuality are fluid for many of us, and fixed for some of us, but never a reason to hate or berate or discount or deny the rights of others.
I won’t be silent until my society is safe from both bigotry and gun violence.
And you shouldn’t either. Because you should be empathetic, and you should be committed to equal rights and human rights. Everyone should.
Make some noise for a good reason.
Stand in silence and solidarity for a moment, but then scream your solidarity from the rooftops. And don’t stop until change happens, and we live in a society of equals, devoid of senseless attacks upon one another, and supportive and loving and caring and kind … and potentially hoarse, because we will have been screaming our solidarity and our identity and our passionate pleas for justice from the rooftops.