This past week, a group of friends and I decided to hop into the car and drive six long hours to our nation's capital to march with Hillary for D.C. in Capital Pride. It was an incredible Saturday as we marched in the parade and received so much support and many cheers for Hillary as we walked by. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, but it wasn't because of the energy from the crowd, or the fact that I was walking with the Hillary group (and I am a die-hard Hillary fan). It was one of the most amazing experiences in my life because I was standing around thousands of people that did not care who anyone there loved, whose hand they were holding, or even who they were kissing. This was the first time I was experiencing, in the flesh, a live safe place for the LGBT community. This was a place in public that for a few short hours, the people around me could walk down the street holding their lover's hand and not worry about being persecuted. It was as though it was normal, as it should be.
The next morning I woke up to the sound of my friend shouting, "There has been a terrorist attack here in America... and it was at a gay bar!" "What?!" I couldn't believe it. I turned on the news and the first thing I saw was that the death toll was 50 and over 50 more were injured. The news that it took place in a gay bar broke my heart, because I automatically knew it was a hate crime. My heart fell into my stomach. The day before I had just marched in our nation's capital pride parade, and here I was safe and sound in a hotel bed. "It could have been us in the Capital Pride parade," I thought to myself. As I continued to watch the news, I began to realize that this bar was a safe place for those 103 victims. Just as the incredible atmosphere I had witnessed the day before at the parade was a safe place for the thousands that were attending. This bar was a safe place where the 103 victims expected to go and be able to be themselves without hate. This, too, was a place these victims expected to go and be able to hold their partner's hand and kiss their partner's lips without fear of being persecuted or even shot and killed.
As the day began to pass, we were on our way to the Capital Pride festival in the mall in the heart of D.C. when I saw on my phone that a man was being arrested in California who had an arsenal in his bags and was on his way to L.A. Pride. What the hell was happening? Was this the day that multiple hate crimes would be taken out on the LGBT community across the nation? Should I still go to the Capital Pride festival in our nation's capital? Am I safe anymore? These were all questions floating around in my head.
Once I arrived at the festival, it was weird. It felt different than the day before at the parade. There was a gloomy cloud that shadowed everyone in attendance, but at the same time, it was as if you could feel a sweet spirit in the air. Everyone there knew what had happened, and it had affected everyone in this community. For decades, the LGBT community has been oppressed. During the 80's when the AIDS crisis arose, the LGBT community was forced to live alone together, and now are they being murdered together? This atrocious action was bringing a community, this tightly-knit family, together. A couple of days before going to D.C., I had watched a documentary on the death of MLK, and it had talked about how his death had brought a community together (the African-American community, of course). This community had been oppressed for so long, all they had was each other. So, they all felt each other's pain, but no one else outside that community could feel it or understand it. Now, even though there was not a gay rights leader or activist that was murdered, 50 people were massacred within this community and 53 more were injured; this hit home with many in the LGBT community. This horrible event was the LGBT community's MLK murder.
Throughout the rest of the day, I witnessed multiple people holding signs that read, "Free Hugs" and "Free Hugs for Orlando." I witnessed complete strangers that had never met before and would probably never see each other ever again hugging, holding hands and standing in group circles talking. I saw extremely attractive buff guys hugging the little skinny dorks (like myself). I saw the older generation of the LGBT community comforting those of the younger generation that may not understand fully what had happened. What I saw that day was love... nothing but love. It is truly a shame that sometimes it takes a tragedy like this shooting to change the way people normally act, or to bring a community together. But the fact that I witnessed this community rising up together and not letting this destroy their spirits, the fact that I witnessed complete strangers from both outside and inside the LGBT community coming together and supporting one another, and the fact that my ultra-conservative step father who has never supported the gay rights movement seemed to be upset by this news and stated "no one deserves to die just because they are gay" -- all of this gives me hope for a better tomorrow. All of this gives me hope that there is still love in this cruel and evil world. And all of this proves to me that love? It truly does conquer hate.
#UnshakablePride #StandTogether #LoveIsLove