We heard the news about the June 12 massacre on Sunday evening. A man declaring himself an Islamic fundamentalist entered a gay bar in Orlando, Florida and began shooting. He killed 50 people and harmed 54 more. It is the most destructive mass shooting in U.S. history.
My partner looked up from the computer screen as we started reading the New York Times article.
“Close the blinds,” she said.
Immediately I felt the old familiar fear. I checked the doors to make sure they were locked. I lowered the shades. We brought our dogs into the room with us and continued reading the news story.
We have been together for 34 years, but that does not make us safe. We are out and open about our love, but that does not keep us safe. We are alive now, today, but we cannot, we can never, count on being free of hate-filled destructive rage directed at us because we love each other. I am simply one woman loving another woman. Lesbian, dyke, queer, gay, bi, trans, whatever you want to call it, this difference means we can be the target of hatred. We cannot forget this fact.
We finish reading the article and stare at each other. My incredulous heart cannot grasp the violence. The loop in my brain sounds childlike and naïve. It goes something like this:
They hate us. Why do they hate us? They don’t even know us.
They want to kill us. Why do they want to kill us? We didn’t do anything to them. We don’t wish them any harm.
We just want to be left alone to love and live our lives. They can have their lives. Why can’t we have ours?
My stomach is upset. I am having a hard time digesting dinner. I am having a hard time.
The article reports that twice this man was investigated. They determined he was not threat. Then he lawfully bought two weapons within one week and drove to a popular gay bar and began killing people. Did no one know he hated gay people? Did no one think that hatred is itself a threat?
In the aftermath of this tragedy, I only hear from gay and lesbian friends. My straight friends and family members do not consider how this act of terror directed at my community terrifies me.
Do they forget that I am gay? Do they forget that I belong to a sexual minority against whom violence is done every day? Do they forget that my community has paid a price in its effort to emerge from the silent margin, once hidden by shame and secrecy, to become a visible, vibrant presence in society?
I am scared, but I don’t want to be. I want to love not to fear. I want to love even those who are afraid of me, those who hate me. I want to love those who don’t see me, those whose ignorance erases me, those who know but fail to remember who I am. I want to love those who believe I have the same privileges as straight women, those who have no idea what I have experienced as an outsider to the heterosexual norm. I want to love all of them even more. And I want to love myself and my beloved partner with just a little more compassion and tenderness tonight and always.