I have found that writing can be a form of therapy for me, in a similar way that painting, building, or creating with other various mediums can also become therapeutic. Often when I cannot quite speak about my feelings, emotions, or thoughts, I will turn to art to express myself. It seems like I struggle sometimes to connect my mouth with my brain in order to speak what is contained inside of me. I can feel the pressure building within my being and I must release the pressure before it explodes, but my spoken words simply do not always come. It’s like my voice turns off and I don’t know what to say.
Once again, today I sense the internal pressure building. I am trying so hard to form words to articulate what is going on inside, but I cannot get the words to come out. So here I am, sitting at the computer, hoping that the words will find their way through my fingers, onto the keyboard, and onto the page. Maybe writing my thoughts works because, like painting, building, or creating, writing is a skill completed with the hands.
During my drive to church this morning is when I first hear about the horrible shooting that has taken place overnight in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The news reporters on the NPR station I am listening to comment that twenty people have been killed by a gunman and several more are seriously injured. The station returns to regular programing as my heart drops upon hearing this tragic news. I can’t bear to hear once again about another mass shooting taking place.
I sit through the majority of a lovely worship service before the pastor comments on the shooting that has taken place just hours before, giving an update to the congregation that reports are now concluding fifty people were killed overnight, and fifty more seriously wounded. I shake my head in disbelief. So tragic I think to myself. By the time I return to my car after the church service, the NPR station is solely covering the reports of the Orlando shooting in place of their afternoon programing. I listen to the reports as I drive to a fabric store nearby, hoping to find a couple Sunday afternoon bargains.
It is while I am meandering through the racks of fabric that I get a text message from a friend that reads, “This shooting in Orlando is so awful. So so awful.” I respond, “I know. It is so so sad. Devastating.” The next text from my friend causes me to stop and stand still in the middle of the upholstery section. “Gay bars are safe spaces. This is such a violation of that.” After reading her message my heart pauses for a moment while I take a long deep breath. I remain standing in the same spot, frozen like a statue, staring at my phone for several moments.
This is fresh news to me. Until this moment I had not yet heard that this shooting had taken place in a nightclub that is prominently a gay club. I cannot believe what I have just learned. I want to refuse to believe it. I quickly make my way out of the fabric store and return to my car to continue to listen to the reports coming through the radio. Sure enough my friend was right. The reporters being delivered make it clear that this was an act of hate by an individual targeting the LGBT community within this club.
My shock turns to intense anger. I punch the passenger seat in my car. I scream. I am furious. I don’t know what to do besides drive home. I continue to listen to the new coverage while shaking my head in disbelief and holding back tears. I want to weep for the fifty innocent people who lost their life this morning. I want to weep for the fifty families who will soon learn that one of their loved ones has been murdered. I want to weep for the presence of such dark hatred in our world.
Later in the day I realize that I still cannot shake off these feelings of deep sorrow and anger. My reaction to this Orlando shooting feels different then my reactions to previous shootings such as Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, and others. This time the pain is deeper. The sting is more severe. The lump of tears in my throat seems to make breathing much harder.
I text my friend back, “I am just in shock. I don’t know why it’s having such an effect on me.” Her response is so obvious, “Well this is your people.”
Of course. Yes, these people are my people. These victims are victims of my community. Victims of my family.
For the first time since coming out as gay, today I am realizing the connection and place I have within the LGBT community. I do not know the names of the individuals of those who tragically lost their lives in the Pulse Orlando nightclub, but I still feel a connection to them. These are people who were simply living their authentic lives, being who they are – the same thing I am striving to do. Sadly, they were murdered this morning for that. They were murdered because a sick, hate filled individual did not like the life they were living, and he took it upon himself to end their lives.
Today I cannot help but to realize that there are people who not only disapprove of my sexual orientation, but there are people who have the potential to genuinely hate me solely based upon my sexual orientation. That is an odd, sickening feeling.
This evening, just before sitting down to write this expression of my feelings, I attended a candlelight vigil for the victims who were killed and wounded in Orlando this morning. I gathered with several hundred other gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, as well as allies to come together to show support and express love. While I was standing amidst this gathering of people I didn’t feel as fearful. I didn’t feel quite as angry. Instead, I felt empowered.
It is empowering to know that, in the midst of a world filled with hate, there are many more who wish to choose love. There are many more who wish to choose a life filled with authenticity instead of distress. There are many more people who choose to stand alongside those who are wounded, hurting, or in pain to say “I hear you, I see you, and I love you.”
I am proud to be part of such a resilient community of beautifully unique people. I am learning that this community, the people in my community, have the biggest hearts of any group of people that I’ve ever met. Individuals in the LGBT community have learned to rise above hate, and it is from the tragedy that we become so proud of who we are.
Today I choose love. Will you?