Today has been discouraging, then elating; energizing yet exhausting. To wake up to the news of a massacre targeting the LGBTQ community, a community I have been celebrating as and with all weekend, just an hour before I was slated to go to the largest LGBTQ event in LA of the year, was daunting and scary, to say the least. But I knew that made my participation all the more important. There are people out there bent set on silencing us, who don't think we deserve to exist as we are and love as we do, and I was not about to let fear conquer our prerogative to be who we are and to be proud and open with it. We must stand strong in the face of hate, not bow down to it.
And that we did. I had the privilege of walking with Buzzfeed today for the Pride parade, and I had the absolute time of my life. There is nothing like dancing in the middle of the streets of West Hollywood to Beyonce with all eyes on you, surrounded by so much positivity, affirmation, acceptance and love. Two years ago at my first Pride parade, I watched from the sidelines, overwhelmed in the best way by awe at the vibrant community around me and the long-sought and finally received freedom to be myself. Today felt very symbolic of how I've healed and grown since then - in both my queer identity and as a human being, overall.
There's contrast to be found everywhere, and depending on how you look at it, it can be discouraging...or hopeful. I saw this contrast all throughout today.
Inevitably as we danced down the street, proudly brandishing rainbows and stickers that said "hella gay", I caught sight of the small band of protesters that had gathered off to the side of the streets, wielding the most atrocious signs in "the name of God", deriding us and banishing us to hell without a single conversation with any of us. And sometimes, I can brush that sort of thing off, dismissing it as extremists who really do make up a small portion of the population.
But today it was particularly maddening, and I can't just dismiss it as "extremists being extreme." The man who murdered 50 people and injured even more is an extremist, but he is bred of a culture that has derided the LGBTQ community for so long. A culture that has picked up that cue from religion. Not every Christian may be using weapons to kill, but every word that has been used to say that gay people are deviant, gay people shouldn't be who they are, that same-sex attraction and romance is disgusting and should be eradicated has contributed to the sort of climate that makes for these acts of terrible violence against the LGBTQ community. Any sort of sentiment that isn't accepting of the LGBTQ community for who they are is absolutely complicit in this. We are not just murdered by hateful gunmen or harassed by extreme protesters - we are harassed and killed by these prevailing attitudes that say we are less than for who we are and who we love.
But then there were the congregations of churches, mosques and synagogues marching alongside us in the parade, blowing us kisses as they wielded signs that said things like "God is love", and you can feel that these aren't just empty sentiments for them. So many Christians will say "I love you, no matter who you are" with very distinct undertones of "but I think who you are is wrong and needs to change", not realizing that those hidden sentiments are just as dangerous and damaging as brazen homophobia.
But these religious folk participating in the parade weren't like that, and it was the smallest gesture that bred the most hope. It touched me like a pinpoint on my heart, but spread effervescently throughout me with a warmth, and seeing them there, I truly felt the love of God through them, and that was amazing to witness in the midst of a day like this.
And then the outpouring of sympathy, support and love from the allies on my news feeds, truly outraged and saddened by the violence faced by our community today. To see it from people who are not LGBTQ themselves, but feel the gravity of the pain and tragedy all the same in solidarity to us was incredibly uplifting and a much needed reminder that despite the heinous attitudes of this world and the horrid acts they breed, we can still come together as one, consider each other's burdens as our own, and remember that ultimately, we are all humans and we are all in this together.
I'm also so appreciative to my best friend Nina, who texted me to make sure I stayed safe today and to my mom, who reached out to make sure I was okay - not just physically, but holistically. I'm surrounded by so much love, and that's the biggest "eff you" that can be served to these acts of hate.
It's comforting to know who stands with us. The outpouring of love has lifted my dampened spirits.
This day has been a whirlwind. Man, this weekend has been one, too. And it's so easy to be discouraged by the such obvious evil in the world that can sometimes seem insurmountable.
But I'm telling you, it's not. Instead of going back into the closet that society seems to have never wanted us to come out of to begin with, my diverse and beautiful and strong community came out and stood out today. We mourned together but then we celebrated together. We were unabashedly ourselves. We laughed together, dance together, hugged each other and refused to let hate dictate us. We certainly refused to let hate have the final say.
Today, we were faced with hate. But we contrasted it with love.
So ultimately, it all boils down to two things I took from today:
There is too much hate for me to live in anything but complete love.
And in a world marred by this hate, I was reminded that love conquers all.