If you feel you’ve arrived and don’t need to be loud and proud, think again.
Apologies in advance to my friend David Daniels, as I borrowed the title from his lovely rant/preach on Facebook earlier today. Also, this is my first Medium post, so… yeah… I’m new at this.
It’s not just that I woke up to yet another mass shooting and likely terrorist attack. It’s not just that news quickly confirmed what amounted to the largest mass shooting since Little Big Horn and the deadliest attack on US soil since 9/11. It’s the time and place. 2:00 AM in an Orlando gay bar during Pride weekend and, not coincidentally, Ramadan.
While social media was far from silent, there was an eerie silence from conservative sectors. An unintentionally perverse Bible quote from the Texas Lt. Governor seemed to claim that it was our fault for being ungodly targets. There were the standard calls for prayers and vigils and taking some sort of action. But the ferocity was missing. It was clear to me on this Sunday morning that some conservative evangelicals were grappling with how to respond to this particular tragedy when they clearly despise both sides.
Meanwhile, my closer circles debated whether this was terrorism or a hate crime. They attacked a queer bar! That’s what matters! What matters most is the hate.
Hate, like a virus, spreads easily if left unchecked. It becomes more deadly if there are no cries for a cure, which sounds achingly familiar. As a community we learned long ago — the 1980s feels oh, so long ago — that change wasn’t going to happen until we demanded it at the top of our lungs. While friends and family died around us, we took care of our own with support from allies who were few and far between.
Nowadays, we have allies. Lots and lots of allies. But the relative silence of today is deafening.
These days, the virus doesn’t just devastate the gay community. But we know a thing or two about turning empty words into action. The rallying cry we used remains powerful. SILENCE = DEATH.
A friend of mine posted a lovely rant/preach about the power of speaking up, living out loud, and not taking anything for granted. “If you feel you’ve arrived and don’t need to be loud and proud,” he wrote, “think again.” Think again, indeed.
Gay neighborhoods like any other minority community are gentrifying and our safe spaces are being replaced by upscale restaurants, straight bars and chain stores. If you think all of your neighbors are comfortable with your simple displays of public affection and out-and-proudness, think again.
Attacks on men and women coming out of gay bars are on the rise. If you are thinking about walking home alone at night along streets you think you know so well, think again.
We are allowed to get married, but many state and local governments refuse to grant us rights to keep our job, keep our home or use the public fucking bathroom. If you think the fight ends with one Supreme Court ruling or the eventual overturning of North Carolina HB2, think again.
If you are gay and think you can help in an emergency by donating blood, think again. (Except in Orlando right now, where local organizations are basically breaking the law to let gay men donate needed blood.)
If you are a gay white man and think you understand the discrimination faced by your trans* brothers and sisters, think again.
If you are a gay white man and think you understand the discrimination faced by African-Americans and Latinos, think again.
If you are an African-American and assume you understand the despicably subtle ways we experience discrimination, think again.
If you think Pride is a chance to go to your first parade, cheer drag queens and Dykes on Bikes because it’s so much fun, think again.
If your think your employer is fully committed to LGBTQ rights because they sponsor an affinity group marching in the parade, think again.
If you think you have the Orlando shooting all figured out — as a hate crime, a terrorist attack, a mass murder, a gun issue, a mental health issue, a morality issue, an immigration issue, a social justice issue — think again.
Here is what I know (I think): Until today, I didn’t fully grasp the concept of Intersectionality. The circumstances and the complicated reactions to the Orlando attack give me some insight. More than that, it gives me a way to grasp the depth of the tragedy and allow myself to mourn what we are losing. If you think we aren’t losing our humanity every time you say “No, you’re wrong” instead of asking “what can I do?”, think again.
Lastly, if you think you know the limits of your ability to love and empathize with the world around you, think again.
Our potential is greater both alone and together when we live out loud and proud.