Photos By Nicholas Karlin, Maya Moore, The Usual Shibas
The Capital Pride Parade was on Saturday, June 11. It seems inappropriate to post photos without acknowledging the tragedy at Pulse in Orlando. Our BYGays editor published a post on Facebook on Sunday that we’d like to share here before celebrating D.C. Pride.
I don’t often admit that I’m from Florida. It’s half-heartedly a joke about escaping state stereotypes. But, it’s mostly because of the traumatic homophobia I experienced in coming out. It’s still painful.
Straight friends might not understand the refuge that gay clubs offer marginalized communities. “It’s like crossing over into the looking glass in Wonderland. You go in there and you feel 100% right,” the patron tells the documentarian in Paris is Burning. That’s still true. I remember sitting in my car for two hours working up the courage to go into my first gay bar in Sarasota. Once I walked in, I felt all the societal pressure, and shaming, and angst slide away.
In college, I’d slip my life between punk shows with straight friends in strip malls, and gay clubs with gay friends in Tampa and Orlando. That duality ended when I was outed next to Space Mountain as church members protesting Gay Days shouted my name and ironically, if poetically, tried to chase me from Tomorrowland back to Main Street U.S.A. Within a week of that experience, I lost my job, most of my friends, and much of my family. I left Florida soon after.
I wouldn’t have made it through that time if it wasn’t for these queer nightlife spaces and the friends I met there. These places are for us safety. The attack against Pulse is the fourth terrorist attack against an American gay bar I can casually remember offhand since coming out. There is a long history in our country of terrorizing these refuges of an already terrorized population.
After a tragedy, there’s a instinctual reaction to share a “Me too!” association with those involved. That’s understandable. We want to connect even if we accidentally make the tragedy about ourselves. I have to stop myself each time from doing it too. But, something here feels a bit different. I’ve struggled with if I should even share something here and have deleted this draft a dozen times since this morning. After all, this is certainly a “Me too!” post. But, I’m reminded of the pride flag whose rainbow is meant to represent our connection across backgrounds, geography, and space. Go into any gay bar in any country and a queer person will feel an instant connection with those inside. I still remember walking into a gay bar in Kyrgystan and exclaiming “this reminds me of Orlando!” We’re all connected here.
Pulse is a particular place that has brought me soothing in my own life. It’s a place that has helped me heal old wounds that I left untreated for too long. This is family, and this is family who has treated me well. But, even if you’ve never been to this particular club, if you’re a queer person I know that you instinctually feel Pulse as family too.
Florida is a different place than when I came out. Thank goodness. But, the same hatred which gunned down club patrons is still held and shouted in pockets all across the state. It’s still a legal basis to fire someone or deny them housing under state law. That still legally happens. Real people are still impacted. People still need these refuges. We still need them. We still need the community they create. We need their support. We need their love. So, I’m proud to stand with our family in Orlando. I’m proud to say that I’m a Floridian. And, I’m proud to say that it is places like Pulse which have helped make me the man I am today.