As an out gay man, I know that the world has never been a truly safe place.
I grew up knowing that you could kill an out elected official and claim that it was spongey snack treats that made you do it rather than your own irrational homophobia.
I grew up working for a religious camp as a counselor and director for four summers in the mid 80s. After I'd figured myself out and told a couple friends in confidence, in the off season the ED wrote me a letter saying that it wasn't in their best interests to have me return for a fifth summer. I never did find out who had betrayed me. It's probably good that I never do.
I grew up with a family that told me that they'd never speak to me again because I am so selfish that I chose to be gay. You'll notice that no one ever considers that being an asshole is a choice. I was born gay, what's their excuse?
But I also grew up knowing that Stonewall had happened. That a group of people who had been arrested by the police for years simply for being alive had finally had enough and had pushed back -- hard.
I grew up experiencing the first time someone on TV was coming out on their show and in real life. And I grew up seeing her career blossom.
And, most recently, I grew up seeing the legalization of Marriage between same sex couples. I never ever thought I'd see that in my lifetime.
But even though I have lived in (mostly) gay enclaves in major cities, I'm not going to say that I have felt safe all of my life. Because I haven't.
I have lived in fear of being harassed, attacked, brutalized, shot, stabbed, raped ... because all of those things actually happen in the world.
I have worried and looked over my shoulder when I have kissed a man or even held hands with a man in public.
I have been told to "get over it" when I have complained that I don't see gay people in movies, TV, in ads, on billboards, etc. and I have been told that we are "in everyone's face" once we got a teeny tiny percent of the total visibility in the world.
And, there was that time I was in a car for Aid for AIDS in the LA Pride Parade and I saw numerous protestors encroaching in on us; I really did fear for my life.
But what would have been worse would have to have taken my grandmother's advice - to squirrel myself away in a small town and become a teacher in order to "get away" away from being gay. She said, if I did that, that "your family will love you again".
Yes, it would have been 'safe' but would it have been right? No.
And so during this Pride season here in New York, I may be tempted to be worried, to look over my shoulder, to fear for my life.... but I cannot and will not live in fear.
Like always, I will be out and about and, while some of the veneer of last years Marriage Equality victory is now worn off as we wake up to the cold shower of reality that no, not everyone is OK with the gay, I will stand out and proud with my brothers and sisters.
If you are inconsolably sad, that's OK. I am too. The loss of these beautiful young people is staggering and will not be soon forgotten.
But if you are so angry that you want to hit something, well, find Weezer and hit her (she'll put up a fight so watch out) :)
However, I invite each of us to transcend the sadness and the anger - and take action. That may mean donating money to gay causes, that may mean volunteering your time to gay causes, but what you can do right now, and very easily, is to write to your elected officials and demand better gun regulations. BTW just in case you need to know this - people aren't on their way to your house to take your guns away. They (well, WE) only want it to be harder to get a gun than it is to get a gallon of milk. You can get them both at WalMart and only one can kill you (lactose intolerance notwithstanding). Click here to go to a HuffPo piece which gives you all the tools you need to start writing.
Finally, here's a link to a Buzzfeed article that gives a little set of factoids about each person who was murdered at Pulse.
ETA: The LA Times has put together an article on each of the victims, and you can read it by clicking here.
It is not, of course, the whole picture of a person's life, but at least we can get a nugget of these beautiful people that we have lost.