Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Pulse is the LGBT Community’s Challenger

Like all members of the LGBT community, I awoke a week ago Sunday stunned at the news from Orlando. I felt much the same as I had felt the morning that the Challenger exploded, way back in 1986: slapped in the face by a reality that had always been a possibility but that I had stopped worrying about because everything was going so well. And just as I had on that horrific day my first reaction was stunned catatonia: I sat staring at news stories, trying to fathom the immensity of it, trying to understand, as if one can understand horror and hatred.

It had been just the previous Thursday when I stood scant feet from President Obama as he delivered his eighth LGBT Pride Reception address, a beautiful few hours in the White House spent meeting LGBT folks from all over who were there to do what I was there to do: celebrate the incredible gains that we’ve made under this administration. The conversations there were full of hope and promise and not whether but when. Could that have been just that Thursday? Two days before the universe collapsed?

In 1986, I must have watched that endless loop of the shuttle exploding a hundred times. There was a teacher on board. A teacher like me from New Hampshire, where I grew up. It was personal. It was too much to handle. It was too much to believe.

It was a different world.

Sunday, I didn’t need video to confirm the stories. The scene has become sickeningly familiar to us all. And yes, it’s still very personal. I’m not young–obviously, if I remember the Challenger–
and I am not Latina, but in a different life I might have been someone who went to a club like Pulse. I’m transgender. I like enjoying life. And 100+ young LGBT people who had gone to do just that were mowed down because...why? The shooter hated them? He was a self-loathing closeted gay man? He was a secretly radicalized Muslim who really hated the fact that he was gay and somehow blamed all LGBT people for it? What?

Catatonia slowly turned to deep sadness. I read stories about the victims: two men who were to be married who will now instead be buried; a soldier who challenged the insane DADT rule; a young nurse who will never be able to fulfill her promise; students, dancers, single parents, journalists, salespeople, beauticians, Disney World employees, out of towners just there for hard to read. So many lives, so senseless. So horrible.

And then deep sadness morphed to plain old anger. It started when I began thinking about how the news was reporting this tragedy. The more they didn’t say “LGBT,” the angrier I grew. The more they latched onto the “radical Islam” angle and called it “terrorism” instead of a hate crime, the more my anger grew. The more I saw people sharing sympathetic memes and rainbow ribbons on facebook–people whom I know to be NRA supporters and therefore complicit in the fact that this guy could legally purchase a military-grade weapon at a shopping plaza gun store without even any needed background check–the more my anger started becoming fury. The more I started hearing that this was about Islamic hatred and we needed to get rid of the Muslims, as if it were not the Christian right in THIS country that fosters the environment that gave this shooter the notion that LGBT people are somehow lesser and are valid as targets and that if he in fact is one he should hate himself, the more that fury became livid.

The President said–as he has said so many times now that he might as well play a recording– that we need to decide what kind of country we are. That’s the problem: we have decided. We are a country that doesn’t care if gunmen, every couple of months or so, blow away large groups of businesspeople, gay people, medical people, moviegoers, or even school children, because we need to hold on to our precious right to own what are, in civilian terms, weapons of mass destruction. That is who we are. Or anyway, that is who the cowards who populate Congress are, as they showed us once again on Monday night, voting down two easy-to-take gun laws even though they had about 90% support from the populace. And I am utterly furious about it.

Because I thought we were finally safe, you know? I thought that all of the asinine laws that the GOP keeps passing were the last, worst gasps of a dying breed of dinosaur passing out of existence. I had forgotten that within all of the ugliness that the right espouses also lies the real potential for actual violence. Until now.

In 1986, no one was even watching the launch of the Challenger. Such launches had become so easy and routine that, as I said, they were sending civilians up. Only the brand new 24-hour CNN, with nothing else to fill its time, covered the launch live. And only they had the video that immediately (in 2016 parlance) went viral. It was a huge event not only because of its inherent newsworthiness, but because of its shattering of a kind of innocence: suddenly we were all reminded, so violently, of what we of course already knew: the dangers inherent to space travel.

Pulse has reminded us, so violently, of the dangers inherent to being LGBT in this country. Where we had started to become a bit complacent–overconfident after so many victories, maybe?–now we once more need to look over our shoulders. Where two gay men kissing in the street was starting to feel (as it should) just fine, now, thanks to this shooter, it will come with the shadow of what if there’s someone like that guy watching? Where many of us gather together, there will always be slight trepidation. Because that is the kind of country America is.

And that really pisses me off.
Bookmark and Share

No comments:


it's your hair that i notice first
streaked with morning
it frames your face
you lying there eyes closed
soft breath not quite there
i follow its path as it bends the sheet
and i can touch you there
touch what i feel is you
in the spark of daylight
you'll rise
pull on the wrinkled shirt from last night
say something you think is beautiful
drink some coffee
from behind my paper
and drive away,
leaving a kiss on my lips
and a hole in my heart
where a fire ought to be

Favorite Films

  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • Amelie
  • The Princess Bride
  • Casablanca
  • Annie Hall
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • All That Jazz
  • Citizen Kane
  • Love Actually
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Big Fish
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Almost Famous
  • Bull Durham
  • Notting Hill
  • Apocalypse Now (Redux)
  • Magnolia

All-Time Favorite TV Shows

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Gilmore Girls
  • M*A*S*H
  • The West Wing
  • The X-Files
  • The Daily Show
  • Ally McBeal
  • Picket Fences
  • All In The Family
  • Seinfeld
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • Star Trek
  • Firefly
  • Wonderfalls
  • Northern Exposure
  • Get Smart
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show
  • Twin Peaks
  • The Larry Sanders Show
  • Monk
  • Felicity
  • St. Elsewhere

Current TV Shows I Enjoy (in no particular order)

  • Perception
  • Major Crimes
  • American Horror Story
  • Louie
  • Suits
  • The Newsroom
  • Falling Skies
  • Franklin and Bash
  • Veep
  • Scandal
  • Fairly Legal
  • Girls
  • Don't Trust the B---
  • Justified
  • Portlandia
  • Psych
  • The Middle
  • Person of Interest
  • Happy Endings
  • Hart of Dixie
  • Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Nikita
  • Raising Hope
  • Castle
  • Drop Dead Diva
  • Covert Affairs
  • Elementary
  • Rizzoli and Isles
  • Revolution
  • The Last Resort
  • Alphas
  • SNL
  • Revenge
  • Community
  • Suburgatory
  • New Girl
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Grimm
  • Nashville
  • Downton Abbey
  • Smash
  • Homeland
  • Fringe
  • Glee
  • Haven
  • Community
  • Warehouse 13
  • Modern Family
  • Vampire Diaries
  • The Daily Show
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Colbert Report
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Leverage
  • Rachel Maddow Show

xkcd - A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and