If you know me at all on a personal level, you know that I am rarely at a loss for words. I am what’s known as a “chatty” person, and I own it. But, since Sunday, I have been struggling to find words. Any words. How do you put into words using letters and punctuation what it feels like to know that someone can walk into one of our spaces and kill our people? So many people. There are not even words invented that I can find to describe what that feels like. Do you know what I mean? Have you been struggling too?
It takes me awhile to process things. I’m the type of person who reads a birthday card or love letter a couple of times before the message really sinks in. I feel like since Pulse nightclub was invaded, I’ve been in shock. Processing. If it takes me a couple of reads on a birthday card before the message sinks in, how long will it take to process that 49 latino/x queer and allied people died and 53 more were injured, and countless people will never be the same? How does a human being begin to process that level of hate? That level of darkness. Of loss. As a queer woman, how do I start to understand the implications for me, my loved ones, our safety, your safety, the world? The list goes on and on and on and on...
I was 19 when I went to Attitudes in St. Louis for the first time. Now for some of you young folks, Attitudes back in the late 90’s was a club that targeted mostly women, rather lesbian women to be more specific. I was running up the sidewalk from where we parked our car on Sarah Ave. I was running, because I could not wait to enter a place that I’d heard of once in a lullaby. A place that was magically delicious and filled with lesbians. People like me. Growing up in South County, a suburb of St. Louis, and having gone to all Catholic Schools, I didn’t know many gay people. I had a couple of guy friends (love you guys), but I didn’t have any friends that were lesbians. Then, I entered Attitudes, and it was like the choir of angels starting singing the Hallelujah Chorus, and I had ARRIVED!!!!!!!!!
Do you remember your first time in a gay bar? That feeling of freedom to be yourself. Or at least the possibility. The potential? If not anywhere else in the world it was safe to be yourself, it was there. Inside those walls of the gay bar. Those days are not over. Please continue to take up space in our spaces. I know I will.
For over 15 years, I worked in a gay bar. I’ve worked every job in the place. From security/door person, cook, barback, bartender, manager, and even owner. I know how important gay bars are to our community. I have celebrated many holidays with people whose families would not welcome them to their celebrations, so where did they go for family? The gay bar. We were their family. The staff. The other patrons. We take care of each other in these places. Please do not stop.
I love to talk to people. Hear their stories. Find out what makes them the person that they are. It’s what I loved best about being a bartender. Do you need someone to talk to? To share your story with? (Find resources here.) Right now, we need to listen to each other. And we need to LOVE one another.
When I was at the Vigil in The Grove last Sunday night, one of the speakers asked us to turn to our neighbor, look them in the eye, and tell them we love them. When I looked into the eyes of the stranger on my left, this fellow human soul that I had never laid eyes on before, and he said to me, “I love you.” I felt the universe move inside of me. There was so much power in those words. Words I have heard and said so many times, but from him that night as I stood there with my community, my fellow human beings and we grieved for strangers and for ourselves. Because even though we live in St. Louis and go to gay bars in St. Louis, we realized that it can happen to any of us. We realized in a collective way, as we all stood there together, the reality of the world that we live in. It was in that moment that the action seemed obvious to me. Love. We need to love. So. Much. Love. The power of love.
We are all hurting. Check-in with each other. I read a Tweet recently that said something like, “even the most well-adjusted LGBTQ person needs you to check on them.” It’s true. I’ve heard from people in my life like my sister-in-law’s sister, and my buddy from graduate school. They were thinking of me. Who are you thinking about? Text them. Send them a Facebook message. Check-in with each other.
LGBTQ allies. We need to hear from you. Please reach out and check-in with the LGBTQ people in your life. Your support is means more than you might imagine. Don’t be silent about the loss of Latino/x LGBTQ and ally life. These people died in the largest mass shooting in our country’s history. Now is the time to stand with your Queer family members. Stand with us. Be vocal about your love of LGBTQ people. If more of you say you love of us then maybe people will stop killing us.
Are you checking-in with yourself? How have you been feeling this week? We can’t help but internalize the great sadness, the senseless violence, and the loss of life. Pay attention to your emotions, and if you need help, please reach out. There are many resources available to support you during this time. At PROMO, we are here for you too. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you can’t find the supportive resource you are seeking, and I will try to help you.
I love you. Each and everyone of you.
Please be the light in all of this darkness, love one another, and be kind.