I learned about the news of the mass killing in a gay bar in Orlando in a text from my partner on Sunday morning. I had been out the night before with a friend and stayed at his house. I immediately got on Facebook and wrote, “Devastated and disgusted. I regret the day I came back to this hell hole country.” A bit dramatic in retrospect, but it is what I felt at that moment. When you live outside of gun culture for four years and then step back into it, it is jarring to say the least. I grew up around guns, I have fired guns, and I even owned a gun once. I don’t have a problem with guns, but I do have a problem with people who fetishize gun ownership. And I do have a problem with people being able to buy assault rifles like the one used to kill (mostly) gay Latinos on Sunday morning in Florida. Every time one of these events happens, we say something's gotta give. But as others have already pointed out, if killing little kids in an elementary school didn’t change anything about America’s gun access laws, then nothing ever will. It is insane.
The first time I set foot inside of a gay bar was the week before my seventeenth birthday. It was the summer of 1984. The moment I crossed the threshold, my world opened up. Every queer person I know, has a coming out song, mine is RELAX by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. To this day, when I hear that tune, I’m transported back to the Carousel in Knoxville, TN. Like most gay bars in smaller cities, the Carousel’s clientele was a literal cross section of the rainbow—dykes, daddies, lipstick lesbians, bears (we didn’t call them bears then though), drag queens, old queens, pretty boys, and muscle boys.
We danced. We drank. We hooked-up. We pretended our friends weren’t dying and life was beautiful.
Since that time 32 years ago, I can’t count the times I have been on a dance floor in a gay bar at 2AM in the morning, intoxicated on booze and house music, or high on e or poppers, rubbing against bodies, kissing. It is euphoria. That was the state the victims were in when the gunman opened fire, turning pure pleasure into terror in a microsecond. The safest place for them destroyed. They were supposed to be hit with laser beams, not bullets.