From the Archives: Sanctuary in Orlando
Sanctuary in Orlando
An Essay by William Grant
This is what I know: I am gay.
Being gay has never been a problem for me. I didn't struggle with it the way others have. I didn't feel pressure from people who share my religious views to "stay in the closet." I have never been pushed or shoved or screamed at by someone who thought I shouldn't be the way I am.
This makes me blessed, I know that. I am one of the few members of the LGBTQ population who can honestly say I have never felt direct push back about my sexual orientation from people around me. I was called the usual derogatory terms in middle school, but nothing more than words has come to harm me.
I understand what I'm a part of though. I understand that for decades and decades, people like me have been pushed and shoved and screamed at. They have been attacked and beaten and murdered.
Often times, we forget that this is something that happens. We look at events like Stonewall and the assassination of Harvey Milk and the hundreds of hate crimes that happened in schools and towns across the world and think, "We're better now. There's marriage equality. We're safe." We think that these are things that happened.
We are wrong. These things happen. They are presently occurring. Today.
This I know: Evil exists.
There are people who will refer to the location of this hate crime as a "night club." Some may call it a "gay club."
I will call it a sanctuary.
Growing up feeling like you don't belong, like you don't have a place to turn to, is painful. It can seem like the whole world is dangerous and against you all because of who you are, of how you were born. You can spend your whole life searching for a place that makes you feel like the pain isn't so bad.
For a lot of LGBTQ individuals, clubs were that space. These clubs were a safe place for them to go. They were surrounded by people who were like them, people who understood their pain, people who would help them know that they mattered. These clubs were a sanctuary from the heartache that surrounded every other inch of their lives.
Imagine having one place in the whole world where you felt free from any pain and sadness in your life. Maybe this place is your home or your church or a relatives house.
Now imagine a man with a gun coming into that place and firing that gun at you and your friends, your family, your loved ones. Imagine someone coming in and bringing that pain into your safe place, into your sanctuary.
That is what happened today. Today evil came into someones sanctuary and tore the walls down.
This is what I know: There is hope because we are strong.
If you don't understand the point of Pride month, allow me to explain.
The LGBTQ population has been shit on consistently for decades. We have been torn down and beaten and murdered and tested and analyzed and shamed. We have been told that we are wrong for simply being who we are. We were born to be individuals and then told that those individuals were foul, nasty, and disgraceful.
But we persisted. We fought and screamed and stood up when they continuously told us to sit down. We made our voices heard and got the rights and visibility we demanded.
Heterosexual, cisgendered individuals have never had to do this. A heterosexual couple has never received scorn and foul gazes for simply holding hands. A heterosexual boy has never been bullied because he asked another boy to prom. A cisgendered woman has never been asked if she "still has a dick."
This is why we have Pride. Because we have endured these looks. We have taken the shoves and punches and dirty words. We have answered these unacceptable questions.
Pride is an expression of our strength. It is a celebration of our individuality and our commitment to expressing who we are in the face of seemingly unbearable torment and rejection.
Pride is for us.
This is what I know: Love will never be beaten.
I have faith. I have faith that one day this world won't feel so dangerous for people like me. I have faith that there will be a time when these shootings are not a common occurrence. I have faith that our government will finally start caring about the safety of the American people.
I have hope. I have hope that one day all parents will raise their children to love who they are. I have hope that one day houses of faith will open their doors to everyone, regardless of what kind of life that person may lead. I have hope that we will reach a point where love really is love.
I have love. I have love in my heart for the people in my life who have accepted and supported me at all times. I have love in my heart for the man who loves me for all my flaws and imperfections. I have love in my heart for the people like myself, for the ones who have fought, who have died, and who are still fighting.