Monday, June 13, 2016

Orlando Thoughts... Remembering my own "Pulse"

I hate doing this….

Every time there is a mass shooting in America I sit down at the keyboard and just want to bang my head against it until the world stops NOT making sense.   But instead I write somber, reflective musings on America’s gun fetish and toll it has taken on the lives of countless numbers of our citizens.  I wax philosophically about the historical context of the 2nd Amendment and the “intent of the founding fathers”.  Then I usually wrap things up with a call for us to pray for each other and our nation in hopes that things will get better.
Well they haven’t.   In fact they have gotten far worse than any of us could ever have imagined.
I would lying if I said that Sunday’s horrific  mass murder of patrons at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando didn’t strike  me very close to home.     Pulse was  for many of those there that night,  not just a club.  It was a safe space.  By safe I mean it was a place where you could be yourself.   Without fear of being ostracized, fear of  losing your friends and family over the simple fact of who you were.
Many of the commentators covering this story have remarked how perhaps some, of the people in that club were not “out” to their families  and this was the one place where  the fear of being rejected by those who are supposed to be your strongest advocates, was for brief time, lifted off their  shoulders;  and for a few hours you could just be  guy, or a girl dancing with , flirting with just being with another guy or another girl.  A simple social interaction that most straight people never even think twice about.

I remember my own “Pulse”.  A place where as young gay man working through my own coming out process I found friends, a sense of community and camaraderie.     It is a club on Halsted Street in Chicago’s “boystown” neighbourhood called  “Sidetrack”  It is  a large brightly lit bar that shows music videos on a giant screen.     Each night of the week has a theme.  Comedy night, 80’s night, Diva night, etc,   
But  Sunday and Monday nights  were Showtune nights.   When videos from Broadway musicals  played to packed crowd of mostly gay men,  singing along (in harmony) at the top of our lungs.   A tradition I am happy to see carries on there to this day...

I had only recently moved to Chicago  but I soon made a group of friends and Showtune Mondays became our ritual ,  it was the first time in my life I felt part of any sort of LGBT Community.  It was incredibly empowering.  
Down the street from Sidetrack was a wonderfully dingy Piano bar called Gentry.  There  I would make friends with some of the most amazing  people I have ever known..  The glorious Honey West,   the amazing Khris Francis, the  late, great and fabulous Rudy De la Mor  and the late and dearly missed Michael James.   All of them,  powerful LGBT role models.  Who each in their own way,  showed a terrified young gay man that living authentically and honestly was not only the better choice,  it was in fact, the only choice  
Yet never once during all that time in those “safe spaces” did I think that my life might be at risk. That some conflicted, hate filled madman would seek out that space in order to rain chaos and death down on me and my friends.

I am sure none of the people at Pulse last Sunday night thought that either Yet that is exactly what happened to them. Their lives cut brutally short in place that had been a refuge and place they felt was truly theirs.
As the Donald Trumps  of the world shriek hysterically and nonsensically about  “radical islam”,  it is crucial we not lose sight of what really happened in Orlando last Sunday.    It was an act of homophobic terror.    The gunman didn’t target Pulse and the people there because they were American, (so was he)  or because they were Non-muslims  or even because they were in a nightclub    He targeted them because they were Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender.   
This was about killing Gay people   The right wing in America desperately is trying  to spin the reasons   away from that basic truth, because it is their rhetoric  and actions that send clear messages to people like this disturbed gunman that LGBT people are “less than” and therefore killing them isn’t wrong.
The voices of the American Taliban;  The Tony Perkins’, the Bryan Fischers, the  Brian Browns, did not pull the trigger last Sunday night.  Yet their fingerprints are clearly  all over the gun.
So yes,  again,  I hope that we all can pray for the victims,  pray for the survivors, pray for our nation and hope that someday it will get better.

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