Russell’s post reminded me of my own nightclub experience. When I was coming out twenty years ago, I remember spending time going to a gay nightclub, Club Metro in St. Paul. It’s been gone for nearly 15 years but in its heyday in the late 90s, this big sprawling complex that was a little less scary for me than other clubs. It was a place where you could hold hands with you boyfriend or even give him a kiss. Life wasn’t super scary for me, but Club Metro was a place where you could be yourself. So yeah, a gay nightclub is a place of safety and to have it invaded is traumatic. It can rip away your sense of safety. My husband Daniel said that he now felt like a target. I feel the same way.
The names of the victims struck me. You can’t tell by my name, but I am part Puerto Rican on my mother’s side. Knowing it was Latin night at Pulse and seeing all those Latino surnames hit me emotionally. In a moment when the LGBT community is now front and center, we also see LGBT people of color in a way that we haven’t before. In most issues involving gays, we tend to see white people as if these are the only people who happen to be gay or transgender. So in a sad way the world now knows in a visceral way that LGBT community is made up of everyone.
I’ve been amazed at the outpouring of compassion coming from people, especially in quarters I would have never expect. Landmarks in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Oklahoma City were lit up in the colors of LGBT pride. Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, hardly a bastion of LGBT inclusion, wrote the a number of compassionate Twitter posts in the wake of the news including one that said: “Christian, your gay or lesbian neighbor is probably really scared right now. Whatever our genuine disagreements, let’s love and pray.” Jen Hatmaker, an evangelical writer, wrote a caring post about reaching out to LGBT neighbors at this time on Instagram. Indiana governor Mike Pence,who made news a while back for his support for a religious liberty law, offered prayers for the LGBT community. A Seventh-Day-Adventist Church in Orlando offered to do free funerals for the victims. A Chick-fil-A restaurant in Orlando opened on a Sunday to serve free food to the people waiting in line to give blood to the injured. (The chain is known for being closed on Sundays.) I know some will say that this is just show. But I think it is a turning point in that 20 years ago if something like this happened, we would not see this kind of response. In fact, something similar to what happened in Orlando took place in New Orleans in 1973 and was largely ignored by the larger society.
This event was multi-faceted. International and domestic terrorism, homophobia and the role of guns all came together in this one event. It is this about hatred of gays? Most definitely. Does it have anything to do with a perverted form of Islam and one of its major practitioners, Islamic State? Yes. What about domestic terrorism? Since the culprit was born and raised in America, I would say yeah. What about the role of guns? I think so. Most terror attacks tend to have just one way to look at it. Orlando is a very different animal.
When I first heard the news of the attack, I felt a sense of apprehension. I was afraid if the perpetrator was Muslim because of the backlash that would occur, especially from a political candidate that shall not be named. But I also was concerned if it was domestic, because people would go after more evangelical Christians, many of whom are good people. I guess I just wish we were more willing to mourn before running to our political corners and trying to tear each other apart. It seems we really are divided even as we mourn.
My husband and I went to a vigil in Minneapolis last night. One of the highlights was when two women on the stage came forward holding hands together to the cheers of the audience gathered, the character looked so good thanks to the amazing Peterson Lights they had on the stage. One woman was a lesbian running for the state House and the other was a Muslim woman who is also running for political office. It was a reminder that we as a nation can’t not allow this man’s actions to divide us.
One of the politicians who spoke at the Minneapolis vigil choked up talking about how these people died dancing. In some ways, dancing has always been a way of liberation in the gay community—a way of being who you are. There is something that is at once infuriating and comforting that people died because they were doing something they enjoyed, something that expressed who they were.
Speaking of which, there is a part of me that is interested in going to nightclub this weekend. I haven’t been to one in years, and at 46, I’m probably going to look like Grandpa, but I think right now at this time it’s important to be out and proud…