Originally I had planned to write my usual review/explanation of the 2016 American election season. Sunday June 12th changed all that! In fact, the tragic mass murder event in Orlando, Florida on that night scrapped any usual ideas of discussing my country’s arguably “historic” presidential campaign. As I sit now at my computer the realization sweeps over me that there are no words to adequately describe the sense of horror, loss and absolute insanity swirling in my mind over the slaughter at the Pulse Night Club.
For some reason I awoke early that Sunday morning at 5 A.M. and tuned in to CNN as is my usual custom. There the reports and early images came flooding into my bedroom like the cold steely hand of death itself. Though having never been there myself, hearing the name Pulse as the location of the mass shooting, I immediately recognized the night club from its notoriety as a popular gay night club in the Orlando area. The early reports of 20 fatalities and over 50 injuries sent arctic shivers up my spine. Over the next several hours I sat glued to my TV nauseatingly digesting the ever changing news reports. Not since 9/11 1991, do I remember being so physically and emotionally shaken by a current event.
Like so many people in Paris, London, Brussels, Madrid, Baghdad. Tel Aviv, Abuja, Ottawa and oh so many other cities afflicted with terrorism, my mind was racing to think of anyone I knew who might have been unfortunate to be a possible victim. Throughout the next few days I constantly checked Facebook for news that would confirm or ease my worst fears not to mention settle my queasy stomach. To say the least my nights were restless. I know it may sound insensitive or heartless, but thank God no one I knew personally was listed as a victim. Despite the senseless bloodshed, we all have that sense of relief when such a tragedy doesn’t directly impact us…it’s sad, but truthfully it is human nature.
Unfortunately a dear friend of mine in Tulsa, Oklahoma was not so lucky. Trevor is his name and sadly he reported that two of his friends, Juan Ramon Guerrero (age 22) & his boyfriend Christopher “Drew” Leinonen (age 32), were among the 49 people who lost their lives that Sunday in the worst mass shooting in American history. Forgive me, I’m struggling to hold back a swell of tears… The tragic loss of life for so many in the prime of their lives is heartbreaking.
Similarly I must share one of Trevor’s other FB posts that strikingly describes what so many of us in the LGBTQ community are feeling about the Pulse in Orlando. He attached the hashtags #onepulse #Tothosewhojustwantedtodance – I’m unsure if this was its source or simply an addendum for people to follow/share. Nonetheless, these words so poignantly cut to the core of the LGBTQ community that one realizes a transcendental moment has been emblazoned upon our hearts and minds forever.
Like so many people in 1963 who remember where they were when they heard the news of JFK’s assassination, LGBTQ people today will never forget where they were when they heard about Orlando. Ironically perhaps, we may need to start asking ourselves if and why “bars” are the core establishments of our freedom & security. Maybe Orlando will so indelibly shatter the social stigma of our fight for acceptance not as homosexuals but as equal human beings that we can come out of the “tavern closet!”
Like 9/11, Orlando has so shocked the very core of American society that even traditionally critical and well known outspoken opponents of the LGBTQ community have united in their vehement condemnation of the act. Point of fact, for the first time in my memory even staunchly anti-gay Republicans and right wing Christians have joined the chorus of Hillary Clinton’s declaration, “When you attack any American, you attack ALL Americans!” My sincere hope is that this shared sense of unity is not short lived!
I feel deeply compelled to express my deepest expression of genuine gratitude to people all over the nation and the world on behalf of the LGBTQ community. As 2016’s only openly LGBTQ U.S. Presidential candidate, it behooves me to declare THANK YOU! The truly sad reality is that it has taken this terrible tragedy to evoke such global support. However, like I wrote in my 1st book Adversity Builds Character! This overwhelming display of love, support and unity demonstrates that fact and significantly re-affirms that these 49 victims and 53 injured persons have not suffered in vain…even if it was not by their own choice. I hope and pray that this may in some small way comfort the families, friends and loved ones of them all.
Finally, it occurs to me that while this tragedy—a highly publicized “American” event—has occurred there are countless others that continue happening elsewhere in the world regarding our LGBTQ brothers & sisters. For example, the lone murderer who carried out this heinous crime against humanity took the time in between gunning down innocent people to declare his loyalty to ISIS on his cell phone. Every day there are un-Godly barbarians like ISIS who excuse their inhuman murders of LGBTQ individuals by perverting religion “in the name of God.” So while the world’s attention is momentarily focused on Orlando, let us not forget the countless numbers who are tortured and crucified because they dare to express their God given right to live and love as they were born to do so!
R.I.P. & Lest We Forget…#OrlandoStrong