"My girlfriend and I had both planned to go to pride in Orlando... she's still dead set on it, but I'm scared. I just graduated and she's just gotten into medschool... I love my community and am proud, but with everything that's happening I'm scared."
-Question Submitted by Anonymous
Hi there, Anonymous.
A few days ago, a friend of mine reached out to see if Everyone Is Gay had any specific resources that she might offer to people who were trying to navigate through the days after Orlando… and I couldn’t find anything that I felt would connect us properly. How could I find something that would connect us properly? As a community – as communities – so much of this is uncharted territory.
In the past week, my thoughts have been wrapped tightly around my own sadness and fear, the sadness and fear of the LGBTQ community as a whole, and the devastation faced by the LGBTQ Latinx community, specifically. I’ve been more silent than usual here on Everyone Is Gay and across my personal social media accounts, because I haven’t known how to speak, what to say, how to engage.
Today, though, I am going to start talking a bit more – and I am beginning with your question because it is one that I am also wrestling with, directly.
First: There is nothing wrong with feeling scared.
I want to repeat this, Anonymous:
There is nothing wrong with feeling scared.
I have always struggled with my own personal fears of being in large groups; a fear that was compounded when a vendor was shot just about five feet away from the booth that Dannielle and I worked at San Francisco Pride in 2013. After that incident, it was months before I could go to music shows or other large gatherings without having my back against a wall and knowing where the exits were. I also lived in NYC when 9/11 happened, which forever altered my own feeling of safety riding mass transit, working in city buildings, and honestly, just living. There were events I didn’t go to in the aftermath of both of those experiences because I was afraid; there were times when I had to get off the subway and take a walk before getting back on and completing my ride.
I don’t mean to conflate any of these experiences, because they are distinct in so many ways; but the one thing they share in common is that they made me feel unsafe in spaces where large groups gathered. That is a part of how I am feeling after Orlando, too, just like you. That fear is weighted differently this year as it intersects with my identity as a bisexual, queer woman who has always aimed to speak as loud as possible about my identity.
I will be working at NYC Pride this year. I will have a booth down where the parade empties out in the West Village where my interns and I will let people know about the resources that Everyone Is Gay has to offer, where people will come to buy themselves hats and shirts that say Everyone Is Gay, and where – as happens each year – many people will come to say hi to me, personally, and tell me how our work helped them get through a break-up, tackle a coming out experience, or find a better understanding of their identity. It’s always a powerful experience, and an important one, and one of many powerful ways that pride celebrations allow us to come together.
I will also be feeling scared while I am down there. I am not sure how scared I will feel or how it will manifest, and I won’t really know until I am there this Sunday, surrounded by so many of your beautiful faces. I also know that many of you will be feeling similar things, and that some of you won’t feel safe enough to attend. That is a sad reality, because LGBTQ people deserve to have spaces where they do not have to feel scared to be who they are… and those spaces are few and far between.
I have had many conversations with those close to me, and with myself, about my own relationship to this year’s pride celebrations, and to gauge my own needs around self-care and wellbeing. I’ve spent that time doing that work so that I could figure out my personal best path forward. For me, that path leads to standing next to those I love, and celebrating who I am amidst the power of that shared space and presence. But that is my path, Anonymous, and the only way to find yours is to have those conversations with those you love, and with yourself. It is okay if you can’t make it out this year. It is okay if you want to talk through things that will make you feel more safe if you do make it out this year.
One thing I can promise is to stand that much taller for you this Sunday – and for (and with) all of you who are also feeling scared and unsure.
I said this the day after Orlando, and I will repeat it here again: If you’re out there, also shakily trying to put one foot in front of the other, you’re not alone. We wobble together.
We can only take these things one moment at a time. We will all continue working to hold each other up, and that includes compassion and understanding for how you, personally, navigate your grief and your fear.
Much love to you, Anonymous.