[image description: White text on a black background. The bottom of the image shows a hashtag saying #PrayForOrlando. Pictured on the black background are individual hearts in the colors of the Gay Pride flag. From left to right: Red, yellow, green, blue, purple. The red heart is broken in two down the middle, to signify the heartbreak of our great city as a result of the mass shooting that occurred in the early hours of June 12th]
I am a lifelong resident of Central Florida. I currently live only 3 miles away from the house I grew up in. Orlando may not house my zipcode, but it is my home.
I am gay.
I don’t know that I’ve ever written out those words before, so I’m going to stand up and say it louder.
I. AM. GAY.
The horrific tragedy that happened in my hometown just over 15 hours ago was supposed to be something that makes us afraid, that makes us isolate ourselves. It was probably, according to some reports, a disgusting response to someone witnessing love between two men.
But instead it’s done something else. It’s made me stronger. It’s made me see that there are people in my community, many of whom are simply allies, who are coming together with us and standing with us.
I can no longer remain apathetic or silent about who I am.
I am proud to be Autistic and disabled.
I am also proud to be gay.
[image description: Tweet by Ze-Hulk @awhooker “If your compassion for the queer ppl murdered in Orlando includes “I don’t agree with homosexuality, but this is terrible,” fuck off forever. 6/12/16, 1:40PM. 57 Tweets, 85 Likes.]
But we can’t just let the standing up and being proud fall on the shoulders of the queer community. The above tweet is something that kept tapping at my subconscious since about 9:00 this morning, as people began to pour out their support.
If your support is to get brownie points or to look like you’re compassionate, I don’t want it.
If yesterday, you argued against gay marriage or bathroom bills or protection of LGBT+ people at work, I don’t want your support.
If you accuse us of shoving our lifestyles in your face when so many of us work so hard to hide who we are for fear of retribution and fear for our safety, I don’t want your support today.
Conditional support is not support. Support because we’re human beings without recognizing the parts of us that make us who we are – that isn’t real support.
I live in a city and a country where I don’t have legal protection against being fired from my job for who I love.
I live in a place where gay men cannot donate their blood because of a fear dating back two decades.
I live in a place where I thought it was safe for me to hold hands with a potential girlfriend. Now I don’t feel so safe anymore.
If you think this is to do with religion, STOP. This is to do with anti-LGBT+ bigotry. I don’t care about the fact that maybe this poor excuse for a human being had extremist leanings and maybe, possibly, had ties to ISIS (this is not a verified fact; stop spreading it). I care that people have anti-LGBT bigotry in their hearts.
Hate can be cloaked in claims of love. Claims that you “love the sinner but hate the sin”, claims that you of course accept your kid, but that’s “despite being gay”.
A homophobe is a homophobe is a homophobe.
(I don’t like the word homophobe, because it’s cloaked in ableism, but that’s a story for another day).
If you’re going to support us, support us always. Not just when it’s convenient or popular or you can pat yourself on the back for doing so.
I didn’t come out to my family until I was in my 30s. I stayed in a marriage to a man where I was unhappy for over a decade. A really big part of that is knowing that it wasn’t safe to come out. It’s only now, living on my own, parenting my kids on my own, providing for myself, that I feel safe enough to write these words.
Let’s make the world a better place, yeah?
A side note that I must mention – The Pulse nightclub is a place that caters to a very diverse group of people, and last night was Latin night. Let us not erase the race of many of the victims and survivors, nor let us forget that it wasn’t only gay folks there. All people who are part of the acronym (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, etc) were welcome and a variety of people were present last night. Please let’s not forget this.
Some of you might want to know how you can help, so I’ve compiled a list of resources.
The Zebra Coalition is a place specifically for LGBT+ youth and young adults. They offer a variety of resources, but definitely will be helping with counseling and other services in the near future.
The LGBT Center of Central Florida (Usually referred to as The Center Orlando) is an education, advocacy and support center for the GLBT community. They are offering counseling and asking for donations.
OneBlood needs O+ and O- blood, and AB platelets. You can go online to schedule an appointment as they are at capacity today, 6/12/16. They are following FDA guidelines, unfortunately, so gay men (and also trans women because of the way that this is worded) are excluded from donating.
Equality Florida has set up a GoFundMe for the victims.
You can donate to Orlando hospitals through the Orlando Health Foundation.
The Orlando Youth Alliance provides services to LGBT+ youth.