I cried all day.
I cried walking to the subway. I cried on the subway. I cried when I got off the subway. I cried while giving a tourist directions to Chelsea Market; I think she may have asked me because maybe only true New Yorkers are comfortable crying in public here. I cried walking to work. I cried at work. I cried when I left work early because I couldn’t stop crying. I cried sitting on a stoop in Chelsea, talking on the phone with friends. I cried knowing one of my best friends was coming to New York tonight and he would be the perfect person to be hugged by and cry with on a day like today. I can’t stop crying.
I am gay. I don’t know if I’ve officially said that on the internet, though I’ve certainly hinted at it, and I’ve said it plenty in real life. I am gay.
I am also from Orlando.
I am gay and I am from Orlando.
I am gay and I am from Orlando and I spent many of my young, dumb, sexually confused nights at Pulse. I’ve never been a club person, but in my days of trying to figure out who I was, or what I was, or what I wasn’t, Pulse was the safest and most fun place to be. Pulse was the place my best childhood friend, Julie, took me for the first time when I told her I thought I might like girls. Pulse was my first real experience with gay culture. Pulse was the place I kissed a girl for the very first time, and I never stopped kissing girls after that.
Pulse was the place I talked to a girl (different girl from the first kiss) about comedy for hours, long before I ever started doing stand up, and I became convinced she was my soulmate until she introduced me to her equally hot and funny girlfriend, who I also developed a crush on.
Pulse was the first place I ever drank Long Island iced teas and also the last place I ever drank Long Island iced teas, all on the same night.
Pulse was not as near and dear to my heart as some of the friends I know from there or some of the friends who brought me there but it was so fucking important to me.
I’ve just started to get comfortable talking about my sexuality on stage. I’ve started talking about how frustratingly easy my experience was, how annoyed I was when I came out to my mom at 22 and she was so cool about it, almost too cool. I’ve talked about a recent experience when I was nervously holding hands with a girl in public while walking past a guy who was clearly looking at us. We both feared what he was about to say but we couldn’t stop laughing when he finally yelled “Damn, y’all look happy.”
We were. We were really happy. Coming to terms with my sexuality has been a really scary experience but the reason I’ve been able to move forward with it is that it makes me truly happy. And that’s all. The only thing on my agenda is being happy.
When I left my hometown of Orlando 5 years ago, I left because I wanted to pursue my dreams in comedy and I wanted to find myself and I felt like I could never truly be the real me there. But I never ever once felt like I was in danger.
Today has been surreal. It’s scary and sad and senseless and I have no idea what to make of it or where to go from here.
I am so devastated for every person who was in Pulse. I feel so terribly sorry for all of their families. I’m hurting for Julie and all of my other friends who spent even more nights there than I did. I’m heartbroken for the entire LGBT community and everyone in Orlando.
I don’t know when I’ll stop crying. I want to stop crying. I want to stand proud and be brave. But also, I don’t want to have to be brave. Why should I have to be brave? Openly loving someone or liking someone or even just being attracted to someone shouldn’t have to be a brave thing. It’s effortless. I like a girl right now and it feels like one of the most effortless, easy things I’ve ever done. Trying not to like her would take work. I want to tell her to just forget it, to forget me, that us being together wouldn’t be worth it and it wouldn’t be safe, apparently not even in my hometown. I want to go back to the days of telling myself I can be with guys because it’s easier. But I can’t do those things. I can’t and I won’t.
For now I’m just going to cry. I’m going to cry and I’m going to tell my friends that I love them and I’m going to carry on knowing that they love me.
I am heartbroken today. But I’m a little bit stronger and more comfortable with my identity and I owe it to some of those nights that I had at Pulse.
I am gay and I am crying and I will only stop doing one of those things, eventually.