#WeAreOrlando

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

It’s been nearly a week since the devastating attack on our LGBTQ community brothers and sisters in Orlando. 49 innocent people killed by a man who chose hate over love.

I’ve scrolled endlessly through my Twitter and Facebook feeds, and online in general, looking for more details and more information and more confirmation that this tragic event will not break us.

I knew not a single person who died last Sunday in that horrific mass shooting, and yet I feel each of their deaths acutely. The more information that comes out about each victim, the more connected I felt to each of them. The youngest was just 18 years old.

For fuck’s sake, I had just gotten fired from my first real job at 18. I hadn’t even met my now-best-friend-of-18-years at 18. I had barely begun to learn what life in the real world was like at 18. I had so much to learn about life and so many struggles to get through that would teach me who I am and why my life matters–most of which I wouldn’t realize until I was in my mid-thirties.

I looked up life expectancy in the US: 81.6 for women and 76.9 for men. The average age of the victims was 29. So many years cut short. I did the math and it’s fucking staggering. If you add the total years lost for these young men and women based on that life expectancy, on Sunday night we lost 2,364.1 years of expected life.

TWO THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED SIXTY FOUR YEARS OF LIFE.

TWO THOUSAND
THREE HUNDRED
SIXTY FOUR

No wonder the collective whole of the LGBT community is stunned. No fucking wonder.

There are political implications of the worst mass shooting in US history, both domestic and international, and while there is much to politicize about the tragic hate crime on the LGBT community, I’m leaving that mostly aside here.

Today I want this space to be a place where I can share my anger. My frustration. My fear. My deep and cutting sorrow. My hope. My resolve.

I am unbelievably angry that one human being gets to have a say in the life and death of 49 other human beings. I thought this kind of anger was reserved for the kind of tragedy that impacts one’s own personal life. I was wrong. I am allowed to feel this anger and let it process through my veins, into my bones, and permeate my soul. I don’t need to hold onto it, but I do need to fucking feel it.

I am fucking frustrated with people who choose to be so close-minded that they take the lives of others because they simply don’t understand how to love. I am so fucking tired of religion being used as a scapegoat for all this hatred toward the gay community. The true Christians and Jews and Muslims and Atheists and Catholics I know would never ever hate someone, and certainly not enough to lash out at them physically, and even less so to intentionally harm a person, let alone take a life. The religious people I know and respect preach love, not hate. It doesn’t mean they fully understand the gay community or believe being gay is okay or right in the eyes of God/Allah/The Universe/Nothingness. And frankly, I don’t care what these religious friends believe. I care that they are decent human beings that treat me and others with love and respect. This hate that’s being spewed in the name of God? That’s not religion. That’s fear.

I am fearful that this will not be the end of the hateful crimes against my community. Long before Omar Mateen walked into Pulse with his guns and his hate, people were using their bare hands and trucks and chains and knives and plenty of other weapons we can’t possibly ban society from purchasing or using without a background check. I am fearful of the level of hate that’s being so easily tossed in the air, breathed in by already fragilely hateful people who then pass it on to our sponge-brained children. I am fearful that this vicious cycle of hate isn’t close to being over.

I feel a level of sorrow I haven’t felt in 25 years. The deep level of sorrow that nearly consumed me after my mother was killed when I was 16. She wasn’t the only family I had, but pretty damn close. The 49 members and allies of the LGBT community who had their lives stolen from them by hatred, they were a part of my family–a family I chose. A family that sticks together. A family that fights for and believes in one another. A family that stretches around the globe so none of us have to feel alone, even if sometimes we are.

I feel a great deal of hope in reading the countless stories of others and their experiences of this tragedy. I feel hope in the cathartic banding together we’re doing right now. I feel hope in this connection to my community, my family. I feel hope in the willingness of good people to speak out against the actions of one man, regardless of his inspiration (hate wears many masks).

I feel a comforting sense of resolve in moving forward. This will not break us. We are not damaged beyond repair. We have survived with broken hearts all our lives and we will continue to live with broken hearts. But not just live. Not just survive. Thrive.

The beauty of resolve when you’re a part of a community is that you don’t have to figure it out alone. You don’t have to know the next step in moving forward. You just need to take the hand of one person in your community, your family, and together you will find a way to move forward.

You and me, all of us: #WeAreOrlando.

#WeAreOrlando

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