Two years ago, on June 22, my life partner, Anne, and I were married here in Massachusetts after 31 years together. In doing so, we became part of a rising wave of same-sex couples in many states claiming their right to marry after the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down as unconstitutional. One year later, the Supreme Court also decided in favor of marriage equality nationally, and rainbow lights shone on the White House and across the United States. We in the LGBT community celebrated this miraculous shift in public consciousness regarding our basic human rights. People’s hearts and minds had opened beyond anything any of us had dreamed possible. A new sense of freedom and hope filled us.
Yet, here we are today, reeling from the news that 49 people were killed and 53 more critically injured in a mass shooting at Pulse, an Orlando LGBT nightclub. It’s the deadliest shooting in U.S. history, among so many in recent years. My heart sank when I heard the news. As a gay friend of mine said, “It all feels so personal.” And it is. It’s not just a random attack; it’s an attack specifically targeting LGBT people. And it could have been carried out anywhere, by anyone filled with homophobic fear and hatred. Any of us could have been one of the victims. It quite literally could have been me. The media are focused on reporting that the shooter was Muslim and pledged allegiance to ISIS, but that connection, real or not, has little to do with it. Anti-gay hatred crosses all lines of religion, politics, and nationality. (And don’t forget that media-fed mistrust and hatred of Muslims is also on the rise.)
Many friends of mine are having memory flashbacks of past experiences of hostility, intimidation, or violence because of their sexual orientation. Me too. It cuts deep, this mass killing, this act of extreme hatred. We are all feeling it, gay or not. I just saw a news video of a man at Los Angeles Pride events with a sign that read: “I am Pulse.” It brought tears to my eyes. If we could all remember that. People are taught to be afraid of “difference,” but no one exactly fits the mainstream standard of acceptability. If we could only see that we are each very different in our unique human expression, but ultimately the same deep within. When our hearts break open, we start to recognize our own reflection in the eyes of all those around us.
Yes, I am Pulse too. I am a lesbian. I am your neighbor. Your sister, your cousin, your daughter. Your co-worker. Your best friend. I am you. We are one within our shared human experience on this planet. We came here to live that oneness, through love. Love of everyone, every one. Let this terrible event be a reminder to each of us to love without parameters, without definitions. Although it may not always seem like it, we are part of something much bigger occurring on this Earth: a transformation in consciousness that is breaking down barriers between people of all ages, sexes, races, nationalities, religions, and belief systems. It is a massive shift out of an old crumbling paradigm based in “otherness” into one based in oneness and love.
Even so, how do we live day to day after such a traumatic event? What do we do with our grief, anger, and fear? We feel them, completely. Sometimes I just have to cry or rage or shake—allow those emotions to move through me, so that I can move forward. Beneath the feelings of sorrow, shock, and fright lives hope, still. I truly believe that we have not lost all that we have gained. Those open doors can never completely close again. We need to remember too that we are not finished; the human species and the planet are still evolving. The extreme polarities arising from fear of difference, fear of change, are coming up to be faced and balanced in all of us. There is more to do, more to be….
When Anne and I married two years ago, we wanted our coming together in love to rise from, and flow back into, the expansion of love we saw occurring everywhere. We chose June, LGBT Pride month, as the perfect time for our marriage. Looking back, I can still feel that momentum, that greater love filling the hearts of those present at the wedding and overflowing into the world around us. Today, as we all face the tragic results of inner hatred turned outward, I pray that we keep our hearts open in spite of the pain. That we love even more deeply. Our collective love is stronger than fear, stronger than hate. Love is love is love is love…. With courage, with compassion, we can continue to live that truth into the world.
*After the Orlando shooting, musician Holly Near wrote a new set of lyrics to her 1974 song “It Could Have Been Me”—video is on her FB page.