Gratitude Amidst Grief: Orlando’s Pulse

candelit-vigil-vancouver-orlando-596x400.png

How does one even begin to articulate everything that is surfacing in relation to the Orlando shooting?  If you ask me, there are so many layers, and each layer is packed with its own emotions.  No shooting is easy to process… we are always left wondering how people can be so cruel and evil, and at the same time imagining how incredibly frightening and terrible those final moments were for the victims.  Today, we get inundated with images and videos of those final moments… screenshots of those final text messages.  We get as close to living it as is possible.  We each have to navigate our own vicarious trauma, and there is a lot of that in our international LGBT+ community this week. As with many of you, I am grappling with some seriously heavy feelings on this one, let me tell you.

So how do I move forward?  I have to move forward.  I can continue to scroll through my Facebook feed, continually revisiting the faces of those who have passed.  I can continue to scroll past the tangental bigots, fundamentalists and extremists, praising this attack as a cleanse of pedophiles.  I can sift through the infinite assumptions and beliefs about the whos, whys, wheres, and hows.  And, to be entirely honest, I will continue to do these things.  However, I will also be cognizant of the fact that I need Facebook silence at times, turning my phone off, and being still, alone or in the presence of my friends. It can simply be too much… it all gets overwhelming.  Gun control. Internalized homophobia. Terrorism. Homophobia. Extremism and fundamentalism. Inclusion and exclusion.  Politicization of LGBT+ lives. Transphobia.  Racism.  Mental health.  Gay rights and equal marriage.  Bigotry.  Muslims. Christians. Faggots.  …There is just too much happening.

I want to move forward by writing, and I want to write about the gratitude I feel, honouring the positive that so easily darkens amidst such tragedy.  And so that is what I will do…

…I am grateful for:

…the people who have made an intentioned point to check in with me, who have written to me, who have texted me.  These people, without explicitly saying it, know whole-heartedly that this massacre has very real impacts on our collective LGBT+ community worldwide.  These people recognize that this was an attack on LGBT+ people… on our progress, on our liberty, on our pride, and on me.  These lives that were lost were not my friends… But, they were friends of friends. A friend of mine was in Orlando, partying at Pulse just the weekend before.  Orlando may be far away, but it is right here within me. It is close,  I am so thankful to those people in my life who recognize the impacts.  You, my friends, are true allies.  Thank you for your allyship. 

…the people who are not muddying the discussion with hatred of the middle-east, Muslims, Islam, etc.  In my opinion, the word “Terrorist” is moot.  It is far too heavily-weighted in racism and opinion, so much so that it is derailing the reality of the situation and deflecting the world from the very real issue:  Homophobia.  Thank you to these people, like Owen Jones, for seeing things as they are and speaking out about it, even if upon deaf ears.

…the religious folks who are supporting the LGBT community, like the gathering of a Muslim community in NYC, and speaking out against the extremist bigots, reprimanding them for bringing shame upon their religious communities.  There is no line between Muslim and Gay, just as there is no line between Christian and Lesbian.  Gay muslims are in our community, lesbian christians are in our community.  Thank you for standing up for us and in solidarity with us and the lives lost.  

…the people on Facebook who are joy-dropping heartwarming and hilarious memes and videos.  These people are striving to ignite laughter and slather us in smiles.  We mustn’t forget that we are creatures of joy.  Thank to for making me smile.

…the woman on the bus today who saw that I was teary-eyed.  “I know how you feel.  Just remember to always choose love.  Fear will get you nowhere.”  She was a stranger.  I was a stranger.  But she understood.  Thank you for understanding. 

…the man at the bike shop today.  I had just received a lovely message that moved me to tears, just as I was trying to pay for my bike-repairs.  When he brought my bike to me, a bike that is plastered in colour and rainbows, he looked at me with such incredible kindness.  He looked at me in such a way that I felt accepted, welcomed, and supported.  Sometimes it doesn’t even take a word.  Thank you for your kind eyes.

…the community of Vancouver that came out to the Vigil on Sunday.  And to everyone who brought their hearts, their flames, their flags, and their tears.  As I sat up on the paw of the giant, cement lion, I was immensely moved by what I was witnessing.  We had a moment of silence together, and then a moment of noise… and that noise, that solid surge of togetherness, shook me to the core.  It healed me.  It united us.  It honoured Orlando.  Thank you for making noise.

…the activists who are planning their next letter to their nearest politicians, their next stand in solidarity, their next fundraiser, their next attempt to push back against oppressive cultures, their next mission to reform gun policy.  Your efforts are exactly what is needed.  We have been ignited by this act of hate, and if history tells us anything about the LGBT+ community, is that we get shit done.  I keep reflecting upon ActUp! and how much effort and energy it took to get people living with AIDS and HIV the respect and treatment they deserved.  There are things we can change, and we must continue working together to make those changes.  To those activists… thank you for activating.

…the heroes of Orlando who consoled their loved ones in a time of terror, who plugged the gushing wounds of their friends and family, and who carried their maimed lovers to safety. You were there in a time of crisis, and your efforts to help our own will never be forgotten.  Your futures are going to have scars of that night, trauma and stress will be in your body for decades if not your lifetime.  Know that you did good things that scary night… you helped save lives.  Thank you for being a hero.

…the Vancouverite who was attacked on the way to the Vigil for having a rainbow flag.  You came forward and told your story.  Thank you for carrying that flag with you.  Thank you for not feeling too shy or too afraid to do so… thank you for your courage, your bravery and your confidence.  Thank you for being someone others can look up to.

…the people who invite others into their groups, abolishing acts of exclusion within our community.  This gunman was reportedly in the club over some years, sitting alone in the corner.  I wonder, was this man suffering from social exclusion?  Was he struggling to understand his own sexuality?  How many people disregarded his presence?  How many didn’t?  Exclusion is unbearable for humans, a species whose whole survival is based on group relations, physical contact and support.  To the folks who go chat with the lone-clubgoers, no matter their appearance… thank you for being inclusive.  Cliques can be deadly, so thank you for relaxing yours.

I am sure there are more opportunities to express gratitude.  And, I intend to add to this list as the days move on and I continue to reflect.  What I know is I have to keep finding the positive, honouring the good, and recognizing our wins as a community.

We will get through this, stronger than ever.  What is clear, is that there is a lot of work that needs to be done.  So many people are living in fear, fear of themselves for being LGBT+, fear of others who hate LGBT+ and fear of such tragedy striking again.  What I intend to do this summer, as these months of Pride pass us by, is wearing my colours proudly, remembering the 49 lives who were senselessly taken away from us, the 49 lives who are inspiring change and collective gathering across the world, 49 lives who will forever and always be in our hearts as we move forward in our LGBT+ movement.  For the rest of my life I will remember these 49.  I will be walking with my rainbows everywhere I go… this year, my Pride starts now.

Thank you to the 49 for making our world a better place.  

watch-this-video-now

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 11.06.34 AM.png

Click above for the #OrlandoVigilVancouver memorial video made by Marc Roumi.  

vigil

Advertisements

PRIDE… a perspective

PRIDE

I am feeling impulsed to write.  I have been triggered a few times over some weeks, so now its time to take the shot. Thank god for blogs…  I can spit out my thoughts and have the eyes of curious other’s read them.  My inner voice can be experienced in and through the reader.

Pride week has ended… and I am incredibly happy to have experienced it.  I am happy because this past Sunday 650,000 people can into the downtown core of Vancouver. They came to a Gay Pride Parade and Celebrations that has been happening annually for 65 years…  They came to Celebrate.  They came to Celebrate Diversity, Liberty, Happiness, Life, etc.  Pride has become so much more than a brave Expression of Gay Rights. It is a way for us to recognize the differences among us and to Celebrate them.  What a Gift.  I do not know of another day where there is so much Joy, Christmas included.

650,000 people!  I am curious to know the stats here.  What were the arrests? At what rate did people fight? Were there many tears, beyond the tears of Joy?  This past Sunday, I rode a float through the thousands of people, and my heart was filled to the brim with Joy and Happiness.  People were there to support, express, and just have Fun!  The sun was out.  The smiles were on.

I am a gay man, and I am Proud of it.  I have come through my own inner turmoil and have grasped the very essence of who I am and I hold that essence, chin up, with Pride.  I am gay, and I fucking love it.  I am incredibly moved by the contrasting experiences of my compatriots living in Russia, Ecuador, Nigeria, etc.  Any gay person who tells me that they “don’t do Pride” or who scoff at the occasion need a swift kick in the rump. Show some Respect.  Take a look through the lens of a different perspective… there is another way to view this colourful day.

A friend voiced his distaste for Pride to me tonight and it clearly highlighted this intense feeling of frustration and sadness inside me. I learned that it is the negative attributes of Pride that cause this friend to feel this negative way.  It is in the chaos, the drugs, and the sex-driven shenanigans that this particular person finds distaste.  Fair.  That shit makes anything distasteful.  Same can be said for Halloween, New Years, and any other major party night. The darkness always shows its ugly face.

Darkness aside… this colourful day should bloody well be Respected.  And yes, I said, “should.” I grew up in a country where I was allowed to be gay, even though my upbringing and socialization told me otherwise. I can only imagine the incessant difficulty involved with living as a homosexual in any of the countries that incriminate and even kill for it. We have Rights, and most of them come from our forefathers taking marches down the streets asking for them.  Today, we carry the Tradition, with incredible Strength, with 650,000 Supporters.  Look how far we have come.

I Celebrated this Pride for the souls around the world who couldn’t even Dream of the Gift that we as Canadians have been given.  I Love who I Love, and they cannot love who they love.  I kiss who I want to kiss… and I do not have to fear a deadly retribution.

My eyes wandered the crowds this weekend, and I saw so much Life. So much Light. I cannot simply sit here and leave this feeling unexpressed.

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinions…naturally, and here is mine: any homosexual who scoffs and undermines this powerful day of LGBTQ Pride needs a perspective adjustment.  If history played out differently,  it could have been you hanged, stoned, humiliated, or imprisoned.  Sure we face hardships as gay men, lesbian women, transgendered people, transexuals, queers, two-spirited individuals, bisexuals, etc… and I feel it is our Duty to stand up together and show the world that we are simply humans wishing to express Love.  It’s not about how we have sex. It’s about being True to ourselves. It’s about Love.

Why a Rainbow?  Well… some say each colour represents a different sexual identity… and although this may be true, I see it differently.  Let me ask you a question.  How do you feel when you look into the sky and see a Rainbow?  The rain is clearing, and the light of the sun is pouring through the clouds.  Rainbows are a prime example of everything that is tiful on this planet… and these Celebrations are the same.  Few, if any, people look into the sky and say “Ewww, that rainbow is ugly… it makes me sick…”  No, it is awesome.  It inspires awe.  So can we.

No shut up and show a little respect for our brother and sisters who are suffering

rainbow

http://www.thegailygrind.com/2013/08/06/gay-teenager-kidnapped-and-tortured-by-russian-neo-nazi-group-is-believed-to-have-died-from-his-injuries-video/