june 11th, 2016 turned into june 12th, 2016. i was awake after a long day at Out at the Fair at the San Diego County fair. it was my first time at a pride centered event. the lgbtq community was becoming more and more important to me as i started attending my open and affirming church each week. i now noticed the harm that the community was put through by the mainstream christian church that i had been a part of my whole life. i knew it was time for me to be more vocal about being an ally. so that day we celebrated. we waved tiny, plastic rainbow flags as we cheered for our friends as they performed music. we watched carly rae jepsen perform at the main stage. we went to the gender-neutral bathrooms and laughed at the people who were freaking out about it. the world had far to go, but we were moving forward. it felt like it, at least.
there is no memory for why i was awake so late that night. i didn’t often stay up past midnight and i know i was extremely tired that day. orlando, florida was three hours ahead. pride month was raging. i was refreshing twitter, which i often do when i can’t sleep. @elielcruz, a religious bi activist i follow on twitter, was still awake on the east coast as he tweeted the facebook status from Pulse Orlando:
“Everyone get out of pulse and keep running”
in a world of instant updates, the lack of information was confusing and overwhelming. hostages. shooter still in the club. people running. people dying. people being shot. phone calls. i went to facebook and refreshed the status. i went to twitter. i checked the news. i googled. there was not enough information. people seemed to think the chaos was slowing down, that the murderer had done the worst of his damage. i felt guilty for my fatigue. i was the only person i knew who knew. the rest of my world was asleep. i went back and forth between apps until my eyes were impossible to keep open.
when i woke up, i learned it was not a dream. and in fact, things got worse while i slept peacefully in my queen-sized bed on the west coast. the number was not yet clear, but the mass shooting was gigantic. i felt paralyzed in bed, but knew i had to attend church. i don’t know what i would have done if i was not attending an open and affirming church. i know i would not have gone. so i dragged myself down the street with a hollow and crushed heart. how could this happen? and why was there any person in this world who was not crushed with mourning?
after being asked the required “how are you?” statement, i simply stared back as a reply. there felt like no acceptable response. i did not have the words to say: my soul is crushed. i was not aware of all the evil left still in this world, and all the silence from those who allow it. there should have been a worldwide collective mourning. every heart should have been crushed. but many were not.
at church, though, at this church, we were a collective grief. we cried together. our pastor explained to us that he didn’t know if he should derail the sermon for this or press on to show that we are not a force to be stopped. i don’t remember what he did; i just remember that they sat with our heaviness, and we mourned together. the world that less than 24 hours ago felt so forward moving suddenly was crushing our spirit. many families of the people in this room were not crushed the way we were.
i didn’t listen to any audio of the attack. if someone played it for me, i must have blocked it out. i didn’t watch videos. but i read, i read, i read. i read the stories, i read the names, i read reactions from all over the globe. i read the anger and the hatred and the pain. it was my way to honor these people. i did not attend a candlelight vigil, even though i wanted to. i had a panic attack. i imagined myself in the club, and the horrors that would have existed.
it doesn’t feel like it’s been a year. a lot has happened, and yet these memories feel so close i can still taste them, i can still be weighed down by them. it was not “just” this one man. it was the mass silence from so many friends and family. it was the fact that bad theology is literally killing people. it was my loss at understanding that people would rather hold onto incorrect beliefs than try to love people who do the world no harm. it is this demand, to continue to limit rights and treat people as less than full humans, that allows these acts of hatred to exist in this world. there are people who, although they’d never say it or think it, by their words and actions encourage someone to act out of hatred instead of exist as an lgbtq member of our community.
i hope it changes. i hope a progressive arch continues onwards for a forward moving story. with all the setbacks, i still have this hope.
sometime within the week after, i wrote this spoken word (click here) piece for my church’s slam night. it starts off: “I believe in prayer.” and i compare jesus to queer people, since his existence made the religious and political leaders uncomfortable, in case you miss it.