It’s been almost three months since forty-nine people were killed and fifty-three injured at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It just so happened that Wendy and I were in Provincetown when we heard the news. We participated in a vigil and a march to The Boatslip nightclub where together we shared this moving moment.
I wrote this letter later that night and shared it with Standing on the Side of Love and with my home congregation, First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond. I am sharing it here on Marquistory to keep it present to me, even as the pain dissipates and I forget to remember.
June 13, 2016
An Open Love Letter to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer-identified People,
Today, we are a people in mourning – mourning not from natural causes but from an unnatural act of hatred directed against us. We hear the horrors of what happened at Pulse in Orlando and it cuts into us like a hot blade. Suddenly our world, which, with the tremendous gains we have made in recent years, had begun to feel a little safer, is ripped open, bleeding and raw, once again.
We hear the words of US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, just last month, when she addressed the transgender community by saying, “no matter how isolated or scared you may feel today, the Department of Justice and the entire Obama Administration wants you to know that we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward,” and those words ring hollow today. “You can’t protect us,” we scream! Not when hatred and division are the order of the day.
It is times like this when retreating into the safe place inside ourselves beckons. We long for security, for safety, for peace. And many of us have learned that the sanctuary of a dark closet with a locked door offers the safety we seek. So we stop reaching for our lover’s hand as we walk down the street. We scrape the rainbow sticker off our car. We seek shelter in our welcoming congregations but don’t lift our voices too loudly. We opt for the thousand little cuts that slash our souls instead of the bullets that rip open our hearts.
For others of us, we defiantly fly our rainbow flag and dare anyone to mess with us. Our anger turns to rage that we direct at a perceived enemy, in this case, Muslims, and, in countless other cases, Christians. We want to fix what allowed this to happen. We assert the need for gun control. We demand that the government do a better job of tracking and shutting down the terrorists among us. We blame the politicians, the trolls on social media, each other.
And still there are others of our community who feel so overwhelmed by grief, so devastated by this senseless attack, that we find ourselves immobilized — unable to cry, unable to act, unable to love.
If you’re like me, you have traversed the full range of these emotions in the last thirty-six hours. You have felt the urge to hide, to strike out, to give up. Whatever your response today, know this. We are an intrepid people, a people whose only demands are that we’re free to be ourselves and to love who we love.
It is because we love so well that we hurt so profoundly. Love is our gift to the world.
Let your love shine through today.
Start this with loving yourself.
Start with believing, with knowing, that it is only by loving ourselves that others love us in return, and that when others love us in return, the world shifts on its axis.
We’ve seen this so many times before. It was only a year ago this month when we celebrated our legal right to love, something that most of us never believed would happen in our lifetimes. And it wouldn’t have happened without the thousands upon thousands of Unitarian Universalists who harnessed love’s power to end oppression by standing on the side of love. Love is our theology. Love is our spiritual practice.
It’s OK not to be brave today. It’s OK to let your heart be heavy, to let yourself cry, to wallow in your pain. It’s OK to be angry and, perhaps even for a moment, to cast blame where blame does not rightfully belong.
But then, when you’ve cried all the tears you have inside you, when the rage has washed through you, I entreat you to reach out to a friend and help them empty their well of tears, tear down the wall of rage inside of them.
When the two of you have fortified each other, then reach out to someone else.
Eventually, one by one, two by two, community by community, we will restore our wholeness and regain our beautiful audacity. I believe that as deeply as I feel the pain that sears my heart today.
We will not forget Pulse, as we have not forgotten Stonewall. In the years to come, it will motivate us to transform violence into peace, hatred into love. And someday, we’ll find ourselves in the place we have created through our love and courage, that place over the rainbow.