As an out gay man, I know that the world has never been a truly safe place.
I grew up knowing that you could kill an out elected official and claim that it was spongey snack treats that made you do it rather than your own irrational homophobia.
I grew up working for a religious camp as a counselor and director for four summers in the mid 80s. After I'd figured myself out and told a couple friends in confidence, in the off season the ED wrote me a letter saying that it wasn't in their best interests to have me return for a fifth summer. I never did find out who had betrayed me. It's probably for that person's own good that I never do.
I grew up with a family that told me that they'd never speak to me again because I am so selfish that I chose to be gay. You'll notice that no one ever considers that being an asshole is a choice. I was born gay, what's their excuse?
But I also grew up knowing that Stonewall had happened. That a group of people who had been arrested by the police for years simply for being alive had finally had enough and had pushed back -- hard.
I grew up experiencing the first time someone on TV was coming out on their show and in real life. And I grew up seeing her career blossom.
And, most recently, I grew up seeing the legalization of Marriage between same sex couples. I never ever thought I'd see that in my lifetime.
But even though I have lived in (mostly) gay enclaves in major cities, I'm not going to say that I have felt safe all of my life. Because I haven't.
I have lived in fear of being harassed, attacked, brutalized, shot, stabbed, raped ... because all of those things actually happen in the world, sometimes to people I know.
I have worried and looked over my shoulder when I have kissed a man or even held hands with a man in public.
I have been told to "get over it" when I have complained that I don't see gay people in movies, TV, in ads, on billboards, etc. and I have been told that we are "in everyone's face" once we got a teeny tiny percent of the total visibility in the world.
And, there was that time in 2000 I was in a car for Aid for AIDS in the LA Pride Parade with drag empress Momma and a couple of other porn stars (including Michael Brandon in the front seat playing with his dick. I saw numerous anti gay protestors encroaching in on us and I really did fear for my life. Thankfully Momma just put her hand on mine, intuiting what I was feeling, as if to say "they have no power, it will be OK".
But what would have been worse would have to have taken my grandmother's advice - to squirrel myself away in a small town and become a teacher in order to "get away" from being gay. She said, if I did that, that "your family will love you again".
Yes, it would have been 'safe' but would it have been right? No.
And so during this Pride season here in New York, I may be tempted to be worried, to look over my shoulder, to fear for my life.... but I cannot and will not live in fear. Been there, done that. Over it.
Like always, I will be out and about and, while some of the veneer of last years Marriage Equality victory is now worn off as we wake up to the cold shower of reality that no, not everyone is OK with the gay, I will stand out and proud with my brothers and sisters.
If you are still inconsolably sad, that's OK. I am too. The loss of these beautiful young people is staggering and will never be forgotten.
And, if you are so angry that you want to hit something, well, those gals in Steel Magnolias will tell you to find Weezer and hit her (she'll put up a fight so watch out) :)
However, I invite each of us to transcend the sadness and the anger - and take action. That may mean donating money to gay causes, that may mean volunteering your time to gay causes, but what you can do right now, and very easily, is to write to your elected officials and demand better gun regulations. BTW just in case you need to know this - people aren't on their way to your house to take your guns away. They (well, WE) only want it to be harder to get a gun than it is to get a gallon of milk. You can get them both at WalMart and only one can kill you (lactose intolerance notwithstanding).
If you want to get in contact with your elected officials to let them know that you support tougher gun controls, please click here to go to a site that will help you find their contact information.
There are also groups forming to help combat gun violence, led, naturally, by the gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals, and transgendered - because, you know, us queers get shit done. We figured out AIDS when Reagan was too much of a pussy to talk about it and we battled non-stop to get Marriage Equality. The gun problem is a bigger piece, but we will do it. Just wait til we get all Joan Crawford at a Pepsi board meeting on them... DON'T FUCK WITH US, FELLAS!!!!