It’s been a little over 24 hours since the massacre that happened at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL leaving at least 50 dead and 53 injured. The Pulse, if you didn’t know, is a gay night club and I, if you didn’t know, am a gay man who is all over Facebook and Twitter and with the deluge of opinions and conjecture that has flooded every social media outlet, I imagine anything I would say about the shooting would just be a single drop in an ocean of posts, tweets and video blogs. But even still, how can your normal scheduled programming NOT be interrupted at something so horrific. Because I am gay, I do think I have a biased opinion and I take it personally... the same way I took the Dahmer murders or the people getting crushed to death at the now defunct Clique Nightclub personally. I used to frequent those places that Dahmer sought his prey and at the time was the age, financial and race brackets that he was looking for. I used to work as a waiter at the Clique and every night I passed by that locked backdoor that refused to open thus causing a melee that ended with several people being trampled to death as they tried to leave. I received a buttload of frequent flier miles from my last trip to Chicago and could have used that $40 roundtrip ticket I have coming to celebrate Pride in Orlando, in Pulse. I could have gotten eaten. I could have got trampled. I could have got shot. I know the comedy that exists because of the distance between my life and those actual occurrences... none of that actually happened to me. But my snicker at the thought does have a tinge of discomfort... people did get picked up and eaten at the dirty bookstore I used to frequent, people did get trampled to death at the place I used to work, people did get shot at a club I could have gone to. I don’t think the Grim Reaper is “following” me, but he doesn’t necessarily seem to be the most discerning motherfucker does he.
The shootings just so happen to take place at the same time as LGBT pride weekend here in Los Angeles. I, ashamedly, went the way of many a tired and bitter queen to not even bother with the traffic, loudness and overall obnoxiousness of yet another pride celebration. Besides, I was scheduled to volunteer to work the booth for the Southwest Chapter of Onyx. I figured that work later in the evening would equate to me “giving at the office” and would quell anyone who asked if I went to pride. That was before I saw the news reports of the massacre, the deadliest mass shooting in the United States and the worst terror attack since 9/11. There was so much conjecture going on, so much misinformation and a dizzying array of thoughts and views, it felt like the truth was this huge log that was put into this wood chipper and what came out the other end were these fine particles of fact and opinion that were so hard to distinguish from one another. All I know was that I saw myself in that club, drunk, happy, making out with someone hoping to get over my ex, dancing to Beyoncé maybe, laughing at the thought of tweeting, “God Help Me, I’m never drinking again” the next day, then getting shot in the head. Just like that. Just that quick.
We’re not as far ahead as we think we are. We’re not as safe as we would like to be. As a bleeding Heart Liberal I definitely still hold true to the belief that all men have two feet and not four, literally and figuratively speaking, and I do find myself lucky to be born in this generation where humanity’s more Barbaric proclivities have been condemned and shunned. But even still, there are Barbarians all around us. There are still wolves who will rip our children to shreds. And it feels good to cry, yell and scream at the heavens as to what is the purpose of a world where it seems like the only reason that children are born is to watch them perish, right in front of your eyes; to watch them kill each other for reasons that seem so insignificant and misguided. They stepped on your shoe? They said the wrong thing? They kissed the wrong person? They call God something differently than what you call him/her/it? Did it change the flavor of your oatmeal in the morning? Did it remove the exfoliates in your face cleanser? Did it lessen the effervescence of your soda? Not saying that oatmeal, skin cleanser or pop is worth killing over… but what is? What is that important for you to kill someone’s kid? 50 of them?
And right when my eyes were beginning to well up at the thought of being that kid, low and behold Los Angeles authorities detained an Indiana man with a cache of weapons, ammunition and explosive-making materials in his car with apparent plans to “attend” the L.A. Pride festival. And just like that, my wistful self-absorbed melancholy went to white hot rage as I fumed, “not in my fucking city you’re not!” I sprinted to take a quick shower and headed directly to heart of all the traffic, all the loudness and the overall obnoxiousness of LGBT pride, West Hollywood.
I walked the parade with The Los Angeles Leather Coalition as well as a few of my brothers from the Southwest Chapter of Onyx, the majority of whom were dressed in various forms of “undress”; leather jock straps, leather harnesses, butt-less chaps and such. It was a protest. It was tinged with decadence, salaciousness and maybe even a little fun, but none of us could deny that it was a protest. It was a protest against every person who ever called us a fag, a bitch, a cunt, a whore, a nigger, a dyke, a chink, a kike, a wetback, to anyone whoever spit on us, shot at us, pissed on us, incarcerated us, tried to eat us, wouldn’t let us sit at their table, play their games, work their jobs all in hopes that we would just somehow evaporate and go away; this was a protest, this was a revolution and our war call was loud and clear, “WE’RE GOING NOWHERE, WE’RE HERE TO STAY, SO FUCKING DEAL WITH IT.”
And we partied, for the people whose ability to party were taken away from them last night, and the generations of people before us who gave up their ability to party also, so that we could be here, in public, walking down the street with hundreds of thousands of supporters letting it be known that we are here to stay, and it’s not such a bad place to be, not for the long haul. Yeah, this world… its fucked up, it’s racist, it’s sexist, it’s homophobic, it’s ageist, people will try to fuck with you, shoot at you, stab you… eat you. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily wear rose colored glasses when it comes to the cesspool of existence here in the 21st century. But we’re here. We’re… HERE. Not everybody can say that, I can think of at least 50 people who wish they could. So I put on my leather jockstrap, I put on my leather vest, I take a shot of Fireball Whiskey, I walk down Santa Monica Blvd in the Los Angeles heat with my friends, my brothers and some strangers with a tear and a smile, I scream with glee with the parade watchers, I completely lose my shit when I see the float with the cast of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, I smack some random dude on the ass, I wave at the predictable corner of protesters on La Cienega and Santa Monica saying that “God Hates Fags” and that we’re all going to hell and I think to myself, “God Bless America.”
I never did make it to the Onyx booth that night to volunteer. You have no idea the amount of stress drinking and walking eight miles in leather boots can do the body of an obese middle-aged man. But for real though… I gave at the office.