The last two weeks of May are best spent talking about all of the things I plan to do in the coming Pride Month. I allow my mind to wander to a place full of same-sex couples holding hands, of rainbow flags on businesses in all neighborhoods of the District of Columbia, of members of the LGBTQ community wearing hilarious/sassy/politically messaged tank tops. I allow my mind to reflect on the fact that our first Pride Parade was not a parade, it was a riot. The faces of Harvey Milk and Sylvia Rivera, Audre Lorde and Frida Kahlo, Rachel Maddow and my best friends from college, all flash in front of my eyes, these are the people who make me most proud to be Queer. At this point of mentally psyching myself up for Pride I’m filled with so much PRIDE that I can hardly contain myself.
Queue lots of sashaying and hair flipping and reminiscing of how far we’ve come as a community and arguing with folks on what we need to continue fighting for.
Last night I went out for Pride. I saw lots of people out with rainbow flags and rainbow beads. I saw smiling faces, I saw long lines getting into fabulous bars where the music is bumping, the people dancing are fabulous, and fun is had by all. I saw a young couple holding hands crossing through various neighborhoods of DC, unbothered and looking very in love. And when I laid my head down to sleep, tipsy with affordably priced beer and the whimsy of the weekend, I thought to myself, “what a time it is to be gay.”
Then I woke up this morning to news that there had been a mass shooting. A mass slaughtering in Orlando in a gay club. And I cried. In fact, I haven’t stopped crying. I’m crying while writing this.
Because despite President Obama announcing that June is Pride Month, despite the positive portrayal of LGBTQ characters in the media (still too few in my opinion), despite the corporate support shown to our community, it is still not safe to be LGBTQ in the United States of America.
It is not safe. As a first-generation Lesbian Latina, I can tell you that. Because alongside the Pride Parade that exists year-round in my head, a small part of real estate in my brain is reserved for the fear that forces me to “be aware of my surroundings” and “not confrontational” as I navigate the world as myself. Fear from racism, always present in our country but newly reinvigorated by the rhetoric surrounding the 2016 presidential elections. Fear from sexism, always present for women and varying from having to explain why rape jokes aren’t funny to progressive men to walking with our keys positioned like weapons at night.
And this morning, a nauseating fear from homophobia. A fear that I can’t safely walk down the street, use sex-segregated bathrooms in peace, share space with my community in an environment created for us to feel safe. We have been terrorized, and we are not safe.
How can this country ensure the safety of communities that are often barraged by violent hatred? Our elected officials could acknowledge that bigotry is lethal. Our elected officials could finally pass sensible gun reform. Our elected officials could show leadership both big and small, engage in conversations about why it’s important to protect those who are so often marginalized. I sincerely hope that something like that happens.
At this point, the tears have stopped flowing and something in me has hardened. Now I’m feeling angry and defiant.
I have been out and proud for eight years. Coming to terms with who I am wasn’t easy, and I was lucky to have a support system in my parents and my friends (who I have appropriately dubbed My Queens). These two groups of people taught me to be brave, to be as out as I wanted to be, to be loud and use my voice because so many people from my community have been voiceless for too long.
Terrorism will not deter us from being who we are, and from fighting for the rights and protections we so desperately need. As long as I’m a living, fire-breathing feminist and progressive, I will fight.