Yesterday, when I woke up to the news of the shooting in Orlando that killed 50 members of the LGBT+ community and injured over 50 more – making it the deadliest mass shooting in US history – I had so much to say.
I was overcome with sorrow and rage. I tweeted my feelings and re-tweeted the sentiments of others because that felt like my soapbox. Twitter was the mountain upon which I stood to shout my truth. It’s not a very tall mountain, but it was all I had.
I spent most of the day lost and crying. I didn’t hear from many people, but those that did reach out did so with true and sincere love. In the evening I helped organize a candlelight vigil in my tiny town only to be overwhelmed by the turnout and the genuine support offered by the people who came. The day ended a little more hopeful than it had begun.
All day yesterday I swore again and again that I didn’t have the words to express what I was feeling, and today I woke up so exhausted from an entire day spent grieving that I almost didn’t want to keep this conversation going.
But I’m a writer, by both profession and passion. It is my job to find the words, especially at times like these.
Now that the fog in my mind has cleared a bit and I’m better able to compartmentalize my feelings, I’ve boiled it all down to this:
- The LGBT+ community deserves better. Last week I wrote about the peace that came with attending a Pride festival and being surrounded by a loving community in what was perceived to be a safe space. The reality is that queer people don’t have a lot of safe spaces in this world, and for some coward to storm into one and attack these people in one of the few places they should have been able to be free to be themselves is heinous and unfathomable. That there are people who dare say things like, “this was an act of terror. It had nothing to do with the gay community – it could have happened to any group of people” is a callous and heartless thing to say to a worldwide community in mourning. Do not try to minimze the crime that has been committed against the LGBT+ community. Quit making excuses and just call it what it was: a hate crime.
- If you are someone who considers yourself to be an ally – a straight champion of the LGBT+ community – and you are feeling uncomfortable in the face of our grief and anger: embrace it. The truth is uncomfortable. That discomfort is the little voice in the back of your head reminding you that, to be a true ally, you don’t get to crawl back behind the shield of your privilege when this all gets to be too much. We don’t get to look the other way and pretend it didn’t happen. Let that discomfort disrupt your reality and prevent you from retreating back into the comfort afforded to you by your straightness. This is what it means to stand with a community. Embrace it.
- Never before has my passion for writing stories that focus on LGBT+ characters ever felt more important that it does right now. I feel invigorated to keep writing and pushing forward. It may not be much, but if this is how I can best contribute to the comfort and normalization of the experiences of those in my community, then so be it. I saw these tweets by Kate Leth and was struck by just how much they resonated with me:
We don’t need anymore dead lesbian, gay, bi, trans, or other queer characters. We get enough of that shit in real life. Here’s to the stories that transcend the tropes and cliches and the need to be edgy for the sake of generating buzz. Here’s to the stories that celebrate the lives and experiences and hopes and dreams of our LGBT+ community. Here’s to staying alive, in and out of the pages.