Orlando Pulse Shooting

I received the news late Sunday evening. I did not cry. No tears were forthcoming. I only breathed. And then I rooted my face in my pillow like an animal.

The feelings were all working away inside, like a pressure cooker, but I didn't have either the words or the spiritual strength to express them. I was empty, in shock, detached. I wanted to howl and howl and howl. I needed to cry, shriek, mourn the senseless loss of innocent lives, but I didn't, I couldn't. Initially these feelings simmered away, waiting to release themselves through normal expression, until, thwarted, they eventually boiled over, resulting in anger and confusion.

What's bothering and eating me up the most is how targeted and motivated it was, he chose a specific group of people to massacre, in their safe zone, their sanctuary. One of the few places in the world the LGBTQ+ community can go where they don't have to worry about feeling judged. Even today, gay bars and clubs are among the very few places where queer people can really let down their guards. We're at our most unprotected there, without alienation or discomfort. A place to be free from the homophobic hatred that still exists in the world. A space to be fearless, without intolerance or second guessing. It's nice to not feel like a minority every once in a while. You can be affectionate in a public space without being gawked at like a zoo exhibit. You can dance like you would at home without heckling. A place full of laughter and love.

Not having to pretend we're anything we aren't. There's a need for that unity. Sometimes gay folk need to be amongst their peers. Although I believe it's our differences that, collectively, make us stronger, we are all tribal. We are more comfortable in a group of people we feel connected to. The fact someone entered a haven that is so openly embraced by an oppressed community is a bitter pill to swallow.

And it scares me, because, the truth is, it could have been me or any of my friends, we all go to LGBTQ+ clubs. It was Orlando, Florida that night but it could have been anywhere, radicals have been accessing arms here in Europe too, people were killed with assault weapons in Paris despite strict gun laws. Breaking things down there's not a lot of difference.

I was in a similar setting Saturday, Galway holds a themed gay night once a month in a straight venue. A monster session ensued. The effects of alcohol sometimes become a seesaw in my mind. I can never predict how unevenly things can swing between a comfortable, balanced feeling and one of sheer, hopeless rage and idiocy.

In the early hours of Sunday morning I shouted at people that didn't need to be shouted at. I threw a punch at some guy who was fighting with my sister and violating her personal space. I'm not a confrontational person by any means, chances are I'll let someone fuck me over before I actually confront them. But you cannot undo the nastiness, or stupidity that occurred in that moment, I let myself down. 

And I'm not going to eradicate that pain or shy away from it. It's there to teach me something. Along the lines of there's more to life in your twenties than the merry-go-round of hangovers and regret, that Patrick needs to stop acting the fool and check his privilege. Because I value this particular community a lot, and sometimes disregard how much I need it. On reflection none of the drama I engaged in that night was important, it's been an eye-opener. 

Drag performer, RuPaul Charles says "We as gay people, we get to choose our family. We get to choose the people that we're around. I am your family. We are family here." And to be clarify, family means family, no less and with all the associated characteristics; including the personalities, flaws, qualities, fights, joys and sorrows that go with it. As the years progress, the intricate web of connections that we weave in the beginning become something more solid and more substantial over time. Family is something to be built and cultivated, which means you take your LGBTQ+ friendships very seriously and learn to love them as the brothers and sisters that they truly are. Growing up with an orientation different from heterosexuality and outside the status quo brings you closer together, being forced to continually maintain a facade of feeling okay, when situations are not, is identifiable. 

Love is not a crime. The father of the killer spoke out and said that his son was angry after witnessing a gay couple kiss in Miami months prior to the attack. It baffles me, BAFFLES me to think that the sight of two men displaying affection could compel a twenty-nine year old to go and murder so many people, how that could be a motivating factor. It's just bizarre, to think of someone consumed by that much hatred. It's difficult not to be directly affected.

I still haven't found my bearings, but I know I'm not alone in this grief. This loss will not go unnoticed, their memory will push and fuel us into a better, more accepting world. At the very least, I'm sure of that. 


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