One week ago, 49 people were killed by one man with two guns. Dozens of others injured.
The world is watching, Orlando. We have witnessed time and again how beauty can come from the broken. But first, the brokenness must be seen. Held. Nurtured. And we see you. I see you. And I will not look away until the pieces begin to be put together again. My love letter to you:
“Shards of glass can cut and wound or magnify a vision. Mosaic celebrates brokenness and the beauty of being brought together.”
– Terry Tempest Williams, Finding Beauty in a Broken World
I am not Orlando. I’ve never even been to Florida. Orlando is a world away, in my mind. A world of heat and color and Latin grooves. A world that I envision with palm trees, ocean breezes, open sky, tourists in white pants and bright tops, beautiful people, verandas, sidewalk cafes, brightly colored drinks with umbrellas, and gay bars filled to capacity.
I am not Orlando or the Pulse Nightclub or one of the numbers of people shot down at the end of an evening of celebration. I am not one of the invisible people who lost someone they love who may or may not have been out as gay or queer. I am not someone healing from multiple bullet wounds, praying to forget the sounds of the blasts or the wicked laugh from the shooter who was reloading his weapon. Again. And again.
I am not Orlando.
Orlando stands out in my mind as a place shattered in a million pieces, torn apart by bullets and hatred. Orlando struggles mightily at the bottom of my feet, suffocating from all the ways people are stepping on its uniqueness. Orlando sits in the pit of my stomach, screaming to get out where it can begin to turn back into a reality of a diverse group of people living their own unique lives; some broken, some thriving, some sobbing, some dancing, some hanging on for dear life, and some lost.
I am not Orlando.
Orlando may not even be Orlando, at least in the ways we as a society are trying to pigeonhole it. Because the Orlando we are calling Orlando is a subsection of Orlando- a beautiful, diverse, queer-identified community of people who were gathered together to dance to the Latin beat when one man armed with 2 guns began his rampage. In the name of hate. In the name of fear. In the name of nonsense.
I see you, Orlando.
I am not Orlando, but I stand here, open heart and open mind to what it must mean to be in the heat of your pain. I acknowledge it while knowing that I could never fully understand what it is like to be among your ranks. I hold this truth as someone who has identified as queer for 22 years, and as a person who has experienced being fragmented and judged and spat on because of that fact. I say this jagged truth as someone who can easily pass as straight and as someone who has chosen to do that far too often in my life. I admit this as a real person who has spent many nights dancing in the sanctuary of gay bars with people I love and with total strangers, feeling joy and pride and a sense of community that nourished me into the weeks ahead. I cringe when I admit that my formerly righteous activist self has fallen into a blissfully boring life with my partner of 22 years, and that waking up to the news of your tragedy made me remember the fact that this level of hatred and fear still exists in this world.
I am awake, Orlando.
I am your sister, and I will not look away. I am your ally, your posse, your comrade, your witness, and I will not stand idly by. I stand with you.
You are beautiful, Orlando.
And what I know is this; there is resilience and beauty in Orlando. Right now you are shattered, but you have already begun to pick up shards, recognizing that there are glints of possibility in the rubble. The most beautiful mosaics have been created with less.