“We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger. We rise and fall, and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer” -Lin-Manuel Miranda
I’ve been sitting on all of this Orlando stuff for a while, unsure of how to make coherent sense of it all. The night of the shooting, pretty much at the exact same time, I was in West Hollywood at a gay bar with some friends. We were enjoying LA Pride with hundreds, if not thousands, of LGBTQ+ individuals and allies. We passed by countless people all dressed in rainbow colors; most of them didn’t care what they looked like as long as they were having a great time. There were dozens of carts lining the sidewalk selling hotdogs to those who were hungry and drunk. There was a lot of sensory information I still remember very distinctly; the lights and colors flashing, car horns honking, the smell “street meat” as a friend called it, and of booze as people brushed past us, people giggling and snapping selfies with their friends as they strutted down Santa Monica Boulevard, past the waving rainbow flags mounted on every business’ awning. I had never experienced anything like it. So many LGBTQ+ people in one place, being who they were without suppression.
As a pansexual woman, I have been fortunate enough to have faced very minimal discrimination because of my sexuality in my past, as compared to others. Of course I’ve had men tell me how hot it is that I “swing both ways,” and have had Christians tell me I’m going to hell. But I’ve never been physically hurt because of who I love. I’ve never considered suicide or harmed myself in any way because of who I love. I am lucky.
That night I was walking the streets without thinking about my sexuality. You might be surprised to hear that, seeing as though it was Pride. But I was among humans who believe in the equality of love, gender, and sexuality. We were all just there celebrating love together, regardless of what society has labeled us. When I woke up the next morning, the first piece of information my brain received was the news of the Orlando shooting. My first thought was “that could’ve been me.”
There were people in a club, celebrating love just as I was, who were targeted for their sexuality. Right now, I don’t care who targeted them. What matters to me is that someone took a gun and thought it was acceptable to walk into a place where people go to be themselves and attacked them because of it.
It’s terrifying to believe that I could go out for a good time with some friends and get shot just because of who I am and who I love.
But something that I find so incredibly powerful, stronger than the hate of the act of terror itself, is the love I’ve seen since the news was released. I was too young when 9/11 hit to really understand how it affected our country at that time. But now, it’s remarkable to me to see how many people are standing with us, members of the LGBTQ+ community, to show us how much they love us for who we are. This is what I keep coming back to, every time I see a story in the news about Orlando or a post about gun control, I turn to the posts/photos/statuses/messages of love.
The Tony’s were emotional for me this year. I cried more than I usually do (which is saying something, because the Tony’s always make me cry). There was some exceptional theatre in this year’s Broadway season (shoutout to Spring Awakening, of course), but there was SO MUCH love pouring out of that award ceremony. Every performance was full of passion and love for the craft, the speeches were touching, and you could sense the strength of community in and around the Beacon Theatre. In the hours before the Tony’s began I was so conflicted; part of me felt broken. My identity felt cracked around the edges. But the moment James Corden stepped onto that stage, I started feeling a bit better. Theatre is powerful like that. At least it is for me. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy focusing on how those performances and speeches made me feel. It doesn’t completely erase the pain, but it helps significantly.
So everyone reading this, I encourage you to find YOUR Tony Awards. We can’t all be theatre nerds, like me. But find something that gives you a glimpse of the passion, humanity, and love in the world. And, above all, don’t keep quiet. Talk to your friends, to your family. Air out your feelings, let them dry on the breeze of community, friendship, and love. If you don’t think you have anyone you can talk to, please message me. I don’t have many answers, but I do have the ability to listen and to show you what love means to me.
We will survive this. Because love is always stronger than hate.