After the events of last weekend in Orlando, my head is reeling. And my heart feels like a brick. First, for the lives lost in the Orlando massacre. Second, for the fact that this is being seen as anything but a homophobic hate crime.
For many of us who came of age in/because of places like Pulse, the club provided a safe space. That space was violated in an unimaginably violent way last weekend.
In the summer of 1998, I embarked on a cross-country trip to San Francisco to do research for my undergraduate senior thesis. It was the first time I would participate in Pride. It was not the first time I wondered if I was bi.
That summer, I danced my way through several clubs in San Francisco, and always ended up at the Cafe. I don’t recall where it was (my memory is the Castro, but was it?) or how I ended up hanging out there; all I remember is the freedom of the dance floor. The safety. The embrace of that dance-beat-mixed-with-sweat-from-strangers-you-may-never-meet-again-but-feel-a-connection-with-because-you-both-stepped-foot-in-the-door.
In NYC later on, there was the Roxy. Cubbyhole. Henrietta’s. Meow Mix. Metropolitan.
Today, as a teacher educator in a cisgender partnership, with a baby and the sometimes fashion sense from the 60s, I tend to present as 100% straight.
But it hasn’t always been that way.
And without the safety of the club, I would never know myself the way that I do now.
I look forward to a day when I wake up in the morning and there has been no attack on communities of color or the LGBTQI community. Some people who were at Pulse last weekend were there seeking refuge from an otherwise hateful, marginalizing, and brutal world. Now many of them will never have the opportunity to be in this world, period.
My heart and soul stand with Orlando and the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives.