I got back from New York City on Sunday. I had spent an amazing weekend where I was blessed with the chance to see “Waitress” a Broadway musical starring Jessie Mueller with music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles ❤ It was a magical experience and one that I will definitely write about. However, something else happened this weekend, and I absolutely cannot talk about my weekend, without talking about what occurred in Orlando, first.
The school I grew up going to for 15 years is incredibly small. It is the only school I went to before leaving for college. My graduating class was only 48 students and therefore it is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone. Most of us grew up together and because of that there is a peculiar sense of safety, due to the fact that we all remember when “Bob” was five and he peed his pants, when “Sally” and “Joe” kissed on the playground, etc. The school is also a fairly forward thinking school and many students and faculty are quite liberal in their views. Many of my teachers were openly gay and the head of the upper school is also openly gay with a son who goes to the school. I was privileged to go to this school, because when I began to explore my questions about my own sexual orientation, I was in an environment where I had a guarantee I would be safe. This meant that I told some people, some people knew, and others did not and mainly by chance rather than my preference in them knowing. School was a safe place for me to hold my girlfriend’s hand and even give her a kiss goodbye at the end of the school day. It was a safe place for me to talk about my crushes on celebrities and not feel uncomfortable. I was able to figure out more about myself in a place where I could focus on me and not on the opinions of my schoolmates.
I told my mom when I was in high school and the hardest part for her in terms of accepting it had nothing to do with discomfort towards the LGBTQA community. No – my mother was afraid to accept it because she feared for my safety and ultimately for my life. She was afraid of people harassing me, saying hateful things towards me, hurting me and I am sure that the thought of someone even killing me also crossed her mind.
Sunday, over 100 mothers felt that fear come true.
It is incredibly difficult to try and think of words to describe just how horrific, disgusting, and simply awful this shooting is. It is incredibly difficult to do that with any shooting, but this one really hit home for me. No one truly knows how hard it is to come out other than someone else within the LGBTQA community. And, thousands bravely do this, because we know that who we are is beautiful and should shine into the universe. Sunday, too many of my fellow LGBTQA “brothers and sisters”* were killed in a senseless crime in a place where we are meant to feel safe. It is terrifying to realize that our own spaces are being attacked and that a sense of safety has been compromised in many of our lives. I think of how in my previous life, I would dress more feminine than I truly prefer, because it felt safer to me. I worried about the way I dressed and the stereotypes that I could face. After Sunday, some of the old habits are fighting to come back to the surface. However, I refuse to let this shooting and act of hate deter my from standing in my own pride. I refuse to let people’s ignorance of what a queer person looks like affect my self expression. I have been able to watch my fellow LGBTQ folks do the same. I have seen individuals be brave and come out in an effort to fight this hate. They have done this with the knowledge that love and standing in your own truth is more powerful than shrinking to those who try to shame us.
Sunday, I saw countless pictures and news reports of the crowds of people who lined up to donate blood. These individuals waited in the hot sun for 8 hours, just so they could selflessly help people they had never met, because they are symbols from the universe that love will never fail us. A boy from my former school, who I have never met, wrote a post on his Facebook about how he had said he hated gay people as a young boy. When he was questioned about it, he had no answer, because it was instilled in him without any explanation of why the hate needed to exist. In his post, he wrote of how he has 100% changed views, firmly supports the LGBTQA community, and that he will now make a promise to always speak up against hate and homophobia he sees/experiences. This young man knows that support means no longer standing by, but taking direct action against hatred. A past fellow student, who is slightly older than me, wrote a post today where he offered all different forms of support to any of his friends who are struggling following this tragedy. A medical worker posted a photo of his shoes that are bloodied from his hard work to aid 50+ people who came into the hospital. He wrote that he will be keeping those shoes in his office. He will be keeping them there to remind him everyday of why he does the work he does. And this list of straight allies refusing to stand down goes on and on.
I am grateful for these people. I am grateful for the hundreds of other people who have done similar. I am grateful for these reminders of love.
And, that is still not enough. It is not enough. It is not close to enough. In 1999, thirteen individuals were shot and killed with twenty four others injured at Columbine High School. In 2007, thirty three individuals were shot and killed with seventeen more injured at Virginia Tech. In 2012, twelve individuals were shot and killed with fifty eight individuals injured at a movie theater in Aurora, CO. Also in 2012, twenty eight individuals were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Twenty of the deaths were children between 6 and 7 years old. And, Sunday, forty nine individuals were shot and killed with fifty three others injured, in the largest mass shooting to happen in the United States of America.
And, this is a small handful of the shootings that have occurred just in my short lifetime of 22 years. Things need to change and no one else, other than us, have the ability to truly get things to change. Yes – you and I. We are not the government and we have also been granted the power to speak up so we can make a change. It exhausts me to get into all of this and I will humbly say that I lack the eloquence to say everything, so I am going to ask you to please watch this two videos:
Secondly, I ask you to visit these links:
https://petitions.whitehouse.gov//petition/ban-ar-15-civilian-ownership – Sign a petition to ban the AR-15 from civilian ownership
https://medium.com/@nicolesilverberg/it-s-on-us-too-an-easy-guide-to-contacting-your-elected-representatives-about-gun-control-2e2d8eb20e3f#.nbz6448gy – A guide to contacting your elected representatives. You are provided with a form letter and a phone transcript for your connivence.
http://everytown.org/senate-votes/?source=etno_ETActPage&utm_source=et_n_&utm_medium=_o&utm_campaign=ETActPage – A link that will take you to a list of how the senators in your state voted in terms of increased background checks of civilians who wish to own guns
http://everytown.org/tweet-at-congress/?source=etno_ETActPage&utm_source=et_n_&utm_medium=_o&utm_campaign=ETActPage – Send tweets to your representatives about the needed increase in gun control
http://www.30guncontrolactionsyoucantakenow.com/take-action/ – A list of further actions you can take
Too many lives have been lost. Right now, people throughout our nation are feeling helpless and lost. We are neither. We have well over THIRTY different ways to take action. It is not just our right, it is our duty. Do this. Do this for:
- Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
- Stanley Almodovar III, 23
- Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20
- Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
- Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
- Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
- Luis S. Vielma, 22
- K.J. Morris, 37
- Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30
- Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25
- Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35
- Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50
- Amanda Alvear, 25
- Martin Benitez Torres, 33
- Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
- Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26
- Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
- Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
- Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31
- Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26
- Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
- Miguel Angel Honorato, 30
- Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
- Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
- Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19
- Cory James Connell, 21
- Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
- Luis Daniel Conde, 39
- Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33
- Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
- Darryl Roman Burt II, 29
- Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32
- Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
- Jerald Arthur Wright, 31
- Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
- Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25
- Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24
- Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27
- Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
- Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49
- Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
- Christopher “Drew” Leinonen, 32
- Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
- Frank Hernandez Escalante, 27
- Paul Terrell Henry, 41
- Akyra Monet Murray, 18
- Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24
- Antonio Davon Brown, 29
- Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
Please. Do this for them. Please. Do this for yourself. Please. Do this for us all.
*I use brothers and sisters in parentheses because gender is on a spectrum and I do not want to fail to include anyone within said spectrum