I had started work on another post about a different subject this morning, but the significance of this particular day (June 12) has ordered me to take a different direction tonight. Today is, of course, the one-year anniversary of the tragedy at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in which 49 lovely lives were cut short in horrific fashion.
As you probably learned in the hours after the tragedy, and certainly in the year since, Pulse was a LGBT-oriented nightclub. Naturally, the tragedy at Pulse ripped a wound in our community’s collective soul. It also led to a lot of disgust over, naturally, the loss of life but also over how it happened and how that perpetrator obtained his tools of violence.
You may have also noticed how our collective anger has really risen since November 8 of last year. That was when You Know Who was elected You Know What, and it turned our anger into resistance against the attitudes You Know Who has professed before and after he took office, that of fear and disdain — and executive overreach — against certain groups based on religion, ethnicity, and minority traits. That You Know Who turned the Pulse tragedy into another soapbox to stand on in his march to the White House really rubbed the wrong way. That he, his administration, and the hateful people who propelled them into power have since given only cursory and false respect toward the LGBT community (if at that) speaks volumes. Is it any wonder that we as LGBT people live in worry over what You Know Who will (or won’t) do to us next?
But while You Know Who conveniently forgets about what happened in Orlando one year ago, our community has not. Sunday afternoon, I attended Madison’s version of the latest nationwide march of resistance. Since June is Pride Month, the marches this time around had a LGBT theme, with an attitude of standing up for the rights and respect our community has fought so long to obtain and defend. Madison’s march (which I hope to share some photos of later this week) didn’t forget the tragedy of Orlando: In addition to the many signs of resistance and LGBT pride many of the few hundred marchers possessed, there were also 49 smaller signs, each one bearing the name of one of the lives lost at Pulse one year ago this morning. Those same names were read aloud at a culminating rally on the State Capitol steps, followed by a moment of silence. The moment reminded us of who those 49 people not only were but also were not:
They were not sinners destined to burn in Hell, as the misguided holier-than-thou people of this world would have you think.
They were not (and cannot be) stepping stones on one’s misguided political agenda.
They were, though, human beings, just like everyone else on this planet.
They were also people still in the prime of their lives.
And, yes, they were someone’s sister, brother, best friend, life partner, parent, or even newfound acquaintance.
And they left behind grieving families, grieving families… and two grieving communities, the one in Orlando and the LGBT+ community worldwide.
Earlier today, one of my social media peeps posted a picture of he and his boyfriend walking, hand in hand, toward the Pulse nightclub’s grounds (they both live in Orlando). In front of them were fellow mourners and, sadly, one or two anti-gay protestors. I will paraphrase his photo caption a little bit here: Theirs was a moment that was a display of true love being just that, love. But that the same time, it’s a reminder to never forget those who were lost, as well as to remind the people you hold close in your life that you love them, for you’re never guaranteed another day, or another chance, to tell them you love them. Speaking of which, another photo in his feed showed him It was indeed a beautiful photo.
But there was another beautiful post he shared: This evening, he took his boyfriend and his family on a perfect opportunity to remind them he loved them: A get-together at a local restaurant to celebrate his boyfriend’s birthday.
On this sad anniversary, here’s hoping you get to do the same: Tell your loved ones how much you love them. And tell your LGBT sisters and brothers how much you love and respect them for who they are, and that you’ll stand by them even in the darkest of times.