I just got off the phone with my mom. Of course I wanted to talk to my mom. A natural enough reaction, I suppose.
“You better not be doing any of that Gay Pride stuff!”
I guess her reaction was natural enough, too. She doesn’t want me splattered all over the sidewalk by some hate-crazed maniac. “There’s just too many loonies out there!”, she says. She’s worried.
It’s not just me. My sister Robin is gay, and she and my sister-in-law Carol are very engaged in the gay community in Corvallis, OR–especially at the University, where Robin is an administrator (and where they named her Woman of the Year, not too long ago). My sister Tamara and brother-in-law Al have also always been deeply active in the gay community, and are no strangers to Pride Parades. This really could easily have happened to any one of us. Could be any one of us.
What mom didn’t know is that I had precisely zero intention of attending Pride this year anyway. I’d meticulously conspired to be out of town that weekend. You probably understand why–it’s not like I’ve been all that quiet about it. Long passed are the days in which I’d travel from city-to-city to celebrate multiple Prides. These days I enjoy a certain amount of peace and quiet and …GET OFF MY LAWN!
But it would be irresponsible and crass of me to ignore yesterday’s events and remain silent. I’ve created a vocation out of writing about gay bars, out of being gay, to be honest, and I understand damn good and well the necessity and value of queer clubs–safe spaces of celebration, recognition, and community. As I wrote in one of my very first Pride Guides for The Stranger:
“There are few things quite as comforting or empowering to queer folk than being surrounded by other queer folk in an atmosphere of reckless abandon–a place where we can express ourselves unmolested and unhampered by non-queer people. The very first order of business for the gay and lesbian movement was the establishment of, well, establishments: places where we could get together and socialize. Gay bars were places of hope and freedom where specifically queer people could surround themselves with specifically queer people and do specifically queer things (dance, show affection, exist).”
I am numb. Or more accurately, I feel rubbed raw – like my insides have been scrubbed with bleach and steel wool. Friends, acquaintances, and community members have fallen to unspeakable violence. And not just to guns (or, as I wish they would be more honestly called, “MURDER WEAPONS”, because that is all the damn things are): I personally know 9 different people who have been beaten bloody in Seattle in the last two years alone. And they attack us where we are most vulnerable: where we feel safe. Where we celebrate. The tears come quickly, unbidden, and at odd moments.
Still, I am deeply proud of the gay community. Before the last shot had even stopped ringing in our ears, the mean and the ignorant lept to highjack this travesty and cram it into their own, bigoted narratives: that “radical Islam” is to blame, and we have to double down on fear and anti-terrorism; that this has nothing to do with easy access to murder weapons; that we should somehow blame brown people; or worst of all, that we deserved it. Because, you know. God. All tired old lies we’ve heard before, ad nauseam. They want to pit us against each other.
But as I scroll through my various social media feeds, I see so many sentiments blatantly, aggressively defying this hate, fear, and Islamophobia, so many of us refusing to be used and divided by hate. Instead, we choose to confront this evil in the way our community always does: by coming together. By refusing to hate. By embracing what’s good. By refusing to be divided. By choosing love. If there is anything I am or will ever be proud of in our community, it’s that. It is always that.
“Then you’re totally missing the point, mother!” I said (rather more heated than I’d intended to) when mom suggested I skip Pride this year. “Of course I’m going! How could I not?” I heard myself saying the words before I’d even made the conscious decision. But I meant them with all of my heart. And I hate to worry mom needlessly, God knows. And I’ll admit, I am just the slightest bit worried. For all of us. But there’s just no fucking way I’m missing this Pride.