I’ve never felt completely like I was a part of the gay community. I myself am gay—anyone who knows me, knows that. It’s a big part of who I am, it’s a big part of my humor and my personality, and it’s something I like about myself. But I never felt much like I was a part of that community, and that’s probably mostly due to living in Oklahoma for much of my life, where the gay community is (by necessity) smaller and sometimes harder to find than it might be elsewhere.
Today I feel very much like a part of my community. Today, with the Orlando shooting in Pulse, I feel connected to my brothers and sisters.
You know, I’ve been to Pulse. One of my favorite, favorite memories is actually in that club. It was spring break one year, and my best friend Alex and I were in Florida, and I wanted to go to a gay club. Alex and I got all dolled up, we looked fantastic, we were in Florida. I was blond, and tan, and thin—the perfect trifecta. We get there, and it’s big and it’s fun and they serve alcohol and I have a fake ID that passes and there are INCREDIBLY attractive guys dancing in their underwear on the countertops and Alex and I are literally standing back to back, getting hit on by guys (I mean, of course, Alex is so gorgeous she can be in a freaking gay club and the most attractive guy there makes a beeline for her). And… it was perfect. It was just a perfect night. I had so much fun. I went out with my best friend to a club in a new city, and it was exactly like any 19 or 20-year-old dreams that it would be.
And late last night, somebody intruded into that dream, and shot it down. I just wonder who else was there. How many people were having their own perfect night? The epitome of feeling young and in love with life and feeling free last night in Orlando? How many Seths were there who got shot?
How many kids who hadn’t come out, who weren’t comfortable with the walking, waking world of daylight and judgment where they didn’t feel they could fully be themselves? How many people went there last night to bloom? To laugh and to dance and to drink and to act like fools and to feel safe with a room full of people who wanted the same things?
So, I really feel connected to the community, not just other, individual gay people, but to our sense of togetherness. Because, I am certain there were straight people in that club, and God knows my heart and compassion go out to them just as much as to the gay people who were killed that night, but this was an attack on gay people. This was an assault on our way of lives. This was a statement some deranged individual wanted to make: I do not agree with homosexuality. It is wrong. You should be afraid. You will be afraid. You may die because you are gay. You could die for being gay.
And only other gay people could understand this exact situation. I was in that club once. I was in that club because I was gay. I could have died for it. I could have been murdered for being gay.
People will try to make us be afraid, but I am not afraid. I’m sure it is easy to be unafraid when these events happen in Florida or California and I’m in Oklahoma, but even if I were in Orlando tonight, I refuse to be afraid. We refuse to be afraid. You can’t scare the gay away. And you can’t frighten us back into the closet. I am a part of the gay community, and I am proud of that. I am proud of the way we have joined together in this issue, the way we have banded and bonded together from all across the world. I am proud of the straight allies as well, proud and grateful for the thoughts and the love and the prayers, but I am proud in a different sort of way, in a special sort of way, for my fellow gays. We are who we are, and you can shoot us down, but we aren’t changing, and we aren’t going away. We will continue to celebrate and love who we want to, regardless of some madman with a gun and a mental problem and a vendetta. We will bury our dead, and cherish the memory of them and be compassionate with their loved ones and mourn our losses, and then we will stand up and carry on. We will continue to live, and live well.
This is Pride.