Makes us Stronger!

A reader’s perspective on hate.

I work with people who are trying to get their lives back. It is one of the most rewarding professions I can think to do and I love it. I love that sense of helping people and I love the people I meet. Recently I’ve had a chance to interact with a man who, as he stated at the end of our first session, “is a friend of Dorothy.”

In our next session together he spoke about going through his younger life trying to ignore the urges he was having and even went so far as to think that the more kids he produced the less the urge would become. Now he’s happy in his 80’s having accepted his sexuality and come out to his family. He said that he was so proud when I walked in and mentioned my wife with no hesitation and no hints of embarrassment or speaking as if something were taboo.

It made me think. When I first came out in college, that’s exactly how I did act. There was a clandestine group of lesbians on campus and we knew who each other but we didn’t openly express our relationships outside of that group. We hid and were embarrassed and succumbed to peer pressure of thinking what we were doing was wrong. The thought of someday not only claiming a lover publicly but MARRYING her was more science fiction than Star Wars.

Yet it’s a reality now. I have married my lover, my best friend, my partner. We get to file taxes as married. I am entitled to her medical benefits. She will inherit my long term care insurance policy. I couldn’t ask for anything more! Except maybe world peace where love and joy are more common than hate and fear. I want to create the world that was created in Perry Wynn’s  Blown Away except in reverse. Isolate all the haters, the individual living in fear, and allow them to get the help they need. A world with less oxymorons such as lawn darts being illegal because they are a danger to life but owning a gun designed specifically for taking life is legal. A world where the freedom of religion is just as important as the freedom of owning a gun.

What happened last weekend in Orlando scared the crap out of me. What rocked my world even more was that a man was arrested on Sunday morning in LA who was planning on targeting the LA Pride Parade. The same Pride Festivities that 2500 cyclists rode through to close the AIDS LifeCycle event. The same bike ride that Kim and I were on. We were there. Los Angeles was that close to being a tragedy the same as Orlando. That’s what scared me. Kim and I were that close to hate, that close and I’m scared.

I feel pretty lucky that I haven’t had to deal with wide spread homophobia, been gender bashed, or been the recipient of any hate crimes. With the exception of a brother-in-law who is ridiculously prejudiced, discriminatory, and all around inappropriate. Most all the people I have encountered have not had a problem with my sexuality. I’ve never lost my job because of my sexual orientation, I’ve never been denied housing or any type of services because I’m a lesbian. No, my life has been pretty uneventful in this overall aspect. I am, however, incredibly grateful for all the gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender individuals who came before me and made my life possible such as those portrayed in Leslie Feinburg’s  Stone Butch Blues.  Made it so that I can walk hand-in-hand with Kim, possible to openly attend her re-enlistment to the Navy, possible to marry the woman I love. These individuals who stood up against bottles being thrown at them, stood up to being sexually degraded by uniformed officers, stood up to everyone and showed the world that we are human. Characters like Frenchy Tonneau in Lee Lynch’s  The Swashbuckler.

And yet something like Orlando happens and all that fear comes forward. Fear that just because I love someone I could be killed. Just because my values differ I could be killed. Just because someone was allowed to purchase a human killing weapon, I could be killed. It just doesn’t seem fair. I don’t want to be subjected to living in fear like Kasey Hollander and Connie Bradford were possibly going to have to do in Marianne K. Martin’s  Love in the Balance. I want to know that at the end of this darkness and fear that I can be a survivor like Dani Corbett in Lori L. Lake’s  Ricochet in Time. Our community has done it before. We will survive and be stronger because of it, but right now, it seems awfully close and awfully scary. So until we come out on the other side I will rejoice in my job and having the opportunity to work with patients who made my life possible, rejoice in my relationship with Kim, rejoice in knowing that I am stronger because I know love.

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8 thoughts on “Makes us Stronger!

  1. I came of age during the AIDS crisis. That is, when it first became apparent that there was a disease that was affecting a lot of gay men. That was the Reagan era, and all of us who went through that remember only too well the lack of response from that administration, but how LGBTQ people rallied and built even more community to deal with it, to force discussions about healthcare, research, and policy, to educate each other about playing safe. In the midst of that horrible-ness, a lot of us came out publicly and engaged in public demonstrations throughout the 80s and 90s. I recall kiss-ins with Queer Nation and defiant but exuberant Pride marches (much less corporate than now), and protestors hurling slurs at us — it only made us dance and laugh more exuberantly and defiantly. I remember in those marches seeing older people — those in their 50s and 60s and on up, who were brave enough to finally come out and join us. Some of them had been out, and doing the work it took to lay the foundation for me to be able to be there at that Pride march, where the cops — at least on that day — weren’t the enemy.

    Last week I heard a story on the news that after the horrific events at Pulse and the strange occurrence with the man who had been arrested in California, police officers in LA went to LGBTQ businesses and centers to check in and find out how things were going and was there anything they could do. Other police departments are doing the same, and I know some of the larger departments have LGBTQ officers who are out and who are part of official police LGBTQ organizations.

    Times have indeed changed a bit. Doesn’t mean law enforcement in this country doesn’t need a makeover in other respects, but it seems in these respects, there is a difference.

    The outpouring of support from around the world following Orlando has been amazing to see, and it demonstrates to me that yes, there has been change. Sometimes it’s so slow and incremental that you don’t notice it until some event occurs and you realize that while you were living and working and building your communities that holy shit, change happened.

    There’s a lot more to be done. And this week has been so godawful for all of us, and I grieve and mourn and I’m angry and upset and a little lost. But still I think about that outpouring of support from all kinds of quarters and it tells me that yes, we’ve come far since the fire in the Upstairs Lounge in NOLA killed 32 gay people and nobody beyond the queers (used pejoratively then) cared enough to mourn.

    Orlando is a horrific tragedy. And one we will never forget. But we’re survivors. And we will offer our love and support to those left behind, and we will continue to create community, and we will continue to dance, fierce and exuberant and hell, yes, defiant.

    I love my communities of queers and allies. Thanks to all of you and all of us for standing together during this horrible, horrible time.

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    1. I like that we are survivors but sometimes that’s hard to remember. I do hope that this event will bring the change that needs to happen for everyone to take that step into acceptance and love.

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing this. It made me think back to my time of coming out in 1966. A terrible time and fortunately a lot has changed and I have been able to marry the love of my life in 2003. We still have a long way to go but I do not give up hope. I’m proud of who I am and I’m not afraid to show the world my love.

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