What do you think it's like to be a boy on a hot Florida night, with your ID and a debit card in your pocket and your new jeans on? Maybe you've gotten off your shift a a chain restaurant, or dancing for The Mouse across town. Maybe you just had a quiet Saturday and ran errands and were meeting friends.
Maybe you're a boy who has recently come out, or is thinking about coming out, and are heading to the club like generations before you -- for a sense of community, for a night of freedom to be who you are. Because even though your country has finally allowed you to marry, it's still not as cut and dry as that. You might be a boy born in raised in Central Florida, or Mississippi, or any place where you still can't fully reveal your identity. Maybe you are a boy who lives in a bigger city, but your parents would kick you out of the house or disown you if they knew you loved another man.
Or not. Maybe you're a boy, or a man, and you've just started your life, your career, your family. You're out. Perhaps you are married. You have a child or are thinking about one. Maybe it's Pride and though you hung up your dancing shoes a long time ago, why the hell not go to the club for one night?
You do not think that you will die on the dance floor. You do not think about making a last call to your mother. But this is what happened in Orlando last night. Orlando, home to the Happiest Place on Earth. This is not the first in a long history of violence at gay clubs. It does bear the terrible distinction of being the worst mass shooting in our country's history. It is sickening. It is confusing. It is frightening.
I'm not that boy. I'm not gay and living in fear of being targeted by radicals because of the way that I was born. I'm not gay and trying to reach friends who are not answering their cell phones. I'm not gay and feeling like I'm a pawn in an already stupid election season, the left, the right, and everyone with an opinion.
But, my brother is. He's the boy that danced in those clubs when he was working at Disney. Who snuck out of my dorm room when he visited me in college with his fake ID so he could go dancing. Who I danced with at Stonewall and at clubs across the U.S. Who came out at 15 -- fearless.
Who is afraid today. Whom I texted in a panic, "Get home now. Don't go to Pride."
See, he lives in Los Angeles now, far away from the terror in New York, his home of 18 years. He had to see assault rifles on his way to work every day in Times Square, he was there when the Twin Towers fell. So he and his fiancee recently moved to Santa Monica. They moved for many reasons, but to get away from being constantly on guard in NYC -- that was one of them. Because you see, even in New York City he still got slurs thrown his way.
He was on his way to LA Pride when the news broke about the suspected gunman arrested in Santa Monica, the one who might have been targeting Pride. So you can tell us about not letting the terrorists win, or living in fear -- all points I appreciate. But mostly I just told him to be careful. To look out at the ocean and go inward. Not to ignore, which he can't -- he's still trying to find friends on a Facebook map.
There is no escaping this reality. As I've heard from my gay friends around the country today, there is another level of fear in their voices. I am afraid for them. I have no good responses -- none of us do. Nothing to offer up, other than to listen, and to pray for the victims and their families and friends. To make the right vote come election day. Still, it's a feeling of helplessness.
What it like to be that boy on a Saturday night, when the music is loud and you are with friends dancing your ass off, sweaty and safe for a moment? When you don't have to worry about what's happening out there? The possibilities are endless.
You dance and you are free and then that is stolen away from you. Your life is stolen away from you.
What is it like to be that boy?