Stolen Thieves and Shooting Stars

I never got a Pulse Tattoo.

June 11th of last year, I went to sleep in my bed tired and weary. I was defeated, emotionally exhausted, I had been involved in a very dark situation whose time to be spoken of has not come yet. My personal tragedy hung on my soul like a lead blanket. I went to sleep hoping things would seem less bleak the next day.

When I first saw the reports, the whole world dropped away. Stillness filled the morning. It was surreal. I remember feeling like I had after the Paris club shooting, survivor’s guilt of an event I wasn’t even present for.

But the show must go on and I had to go to work that Sunday. I had to put on black BDUs, dark sunglasses that obscured my face, and I had to carry an AR-15 into audience theater. The exact same weapon the shooter had carried. I thought of all the training I had to go through to be allowed this weapon. All the checks and balances I had to go through when handling the weapon. All the safety procedures and contingencies I had to learn. All he had to do was have enough money.

In the following days I vowed to do something, to get involved. I was going to go to the vigil but I felt like I would be out of place, I wouldn’t belong there. This wasn’t my club, this wasn’t my social scene. When I heard about the crowd size, I was relieved to know enough other people would be there and I could stay at home. I was going to go help make care packages, but I didn’t because I had to pick up a shift. My own personal trauma was an expensive one and I was going to have to dedicate my time to making money first. When I heard the Westboro Church was coming to make one of their ghaustly scenes. I went to the first funeral, to take a stand and show those rotten bastards their message was not welcome. They never did show but a mass of people did. It was quite the scene. There were experienced protestors and their lawyers there to make sure we were in no way endangering ourselves or disturbing the family. There were honest members of the community who had come out for the same reasons I did, to be on the front line. There were the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and they were fabulous as they could be. There were those who were there to satisfy their ego, to pat themselves on their own backs and to be seen.But hate never showed up. The funeral home was on a busy road and I remember feeling overwhelmed with a sense of connection and community everytime a vehicle honked in support. A lot of people honked and it was the first time I saw Orlando as a community and not just a collection of very separate tribes.

In the weeks following, my facebook feed was a wash of rainbow and pulse rate symbols. Every tattoo shop in town had back to back appointments of people trading money to be donated in exchange for permanent ink. Everyone had a tshirt. But it didn’t have the gross feeling of people trying to capitalize on the event, you knew it was all to raise money and to show on which side you stood. Orlando came out to say this aggression will not stand. Love shouted and hate could not be heard.

I never got a Pulse tattoo. I felt like I didn’t have the right to. While I know so many people in the LGBT community and I love them and support them, I am not one of them. From what I’ve observed, that particular tribe has some deep connections to each other, shared experiences I could never hope to relate to. I have not been rejected or oppressed in any fashion close to what they’ve experienced. I am a welcome guest in their world but I have not formed the bonds that they have with each other.

Press fast forward. Tonight I witnessed an expression of the mark this event has left on the artists. I attended “Stolen Thieves” a performance of the constantly evolving show, Varietease. The show’s creator, Blue Star, is the unofficial leader of the community, she has been a powerful voice for all the queer folk of Orlando and was brought into the national spotlight because of her position when the media descended on our town. If you’ve ever met this woman, you know she is a true queen but at heart she is an artist. She pours herself into her shows, her dancers become extensions of expression, each show represents a chunk of time in her world. I had been told she touched upon the Pulse event in the event, I wasn’t prepared for what she had created.

In the beginning, I wasn’t exactly sure of her message but I found the place I go to at the Venue where I stop trying to understand and capture everything and just experience it. The themes of loss, of fear, of anger became present. I became aware of how we are perceiving time throughout the numbers. We come to the moment of June 12th. The tone becomes aggressive as the dancers perform technically precise classical ballet movements to driving industrial metal. The dancers had worn black veils over their face, now they’ve come down to reveal just the eyes of each dancer. The all black costumes, flowing layers with utilitarian belts and buckles and straps have an oddly militant feel. For a moment I am reminded of the image of a middle eastern villain and I wonder if that is on purpose or my own conditioning showing. Interspliced throughout all of this comes the words of great leaders reminding us that we mustn’t cave in to fear and we must all continue to believe in the dream that all are created equal.

I’m crying. At first I don’t know why, then I decide it doesn’t matter. If I want to cry, I can cry and I don’t have to explain it to anyone. In the show I see the message I’ve been looking for. An understanding I’ve been coming to. It no longer matters what tribe you are a part of. If we are to heal, then we all must come together and stand against those who wield hate and fear as weapons. We cannot allow violent actions to spur us on to further violence. There are no easy answers now so what is the point in making things more complicated with lines in the sand. At the end, Blue announces to the audience this was about democracy, and it absolutely was. We mustn’t conform, mustn’t give in. We must be heard, but we must also listen. If we are every to stop atrocious acts from happening, we must stop holding animosity in our hearts. We make our enemies. It’s time to unmake them.

I realize now I’ve gone off in a bit of a rant. Sorry, I’m all worked up defending the Pepsi ad (that story to follow another night.) The point is, be the change. Get involved. Do more than pass around the same snarky articles about what an awful job the president is doing or how we’re all doomed. Democracy only works through participation. Those who participate make the rules. There’s a lot of different ways to participate, you just have to do it.

 

Sorry, this is a weak conclusion. I’m exhausted and loosing wind. Goodnight, offworlders. You know who you are.

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Don’t make a Martyr out of a Molehill

I’m pro-gay marriage, absolutely. I believe the government should make no laws favoring or restricting any one faith. However, our cultural treatment of Kim Davis irks me. She is standing up for what she believes in, and no matter how wrong we all feel it is, she still has the right as an American citizen to do so. The aggressive shaming of her is about as troublesome to me as some of the things her supporters have to say.

Let’s turn back the times, and the tables, for the sake of argument. What if she was issuing licenses to interracial couples in, say, the forties (ignoring the unlikelihood of a woman holding elected office in the south and my general lack of exact knowledge as to which decade was most intolerant)? The majority opinion of her would remain the same, that is to say in vicious opposition. She probably would face jail time for defying a federal decree and be mocked in public opinion. Please remember, I am not saying the situation is the same but that Kim Davis’s actions, her intentions in this current state of affairs in regards to her right to practice free speech, are no different than if she wished to defy the law and married a black woman and a white man.

As funny as the “do your damn job” memes are, I find them an ironic form of oppressive. I hate to say it, but I support her choice (not motivation) in refusing to issue the license. How much would any civil rights movement accomplished if everyone were to “shut up and do their damn job”? If my company issued a decree that I consciously disagreed with or that infringed on my rights to freely practice my faith, then I would absolutely protest and refuse to work. I would seek out colleagues, managers, company investors to support me in my protest. If I were to be jailed, I would not make an agreement to return to work and do what I was jailed for in the first place just to get out. If something meant that much to me, I would do whatever I could within my power to make a change. And my success in doing so would depend solely on the number of people who agreed with my position on the issue that had the ability to effect the company or at least the number of investors I could scare away.

The difference between me and Kim Davis, however, is that she is a public official and I am a private citizen. That’s where things get a little murky. What rights do public officials give up or abridge when they take up their position? If someone is elected to an office, only to have the duties of that office change after they had accepted the position, do they not have a right to object? Is freedom of protest only for the private citizen? Would Davis have even wanted to obtain the status of County Clerk if she’d known that it would entail a duty that violated her beliefs? What if you’d been hired to be a librarian but then 10 years into the job, after you’ve based your life around your employment, you were told you also had to let people fuck sheep in the back room? I’m not saying that is an equivalent, but she sure as hell thinks it is. When the ink dried and all hopes of repeal of the Gay Marriage law escaped from possibility, she woke up one day and said to herself “I cannot allow this.” Legally, yes arrest was appropriate for her actions. She is an elected official. Her job is not to judge if two people should get married, but to certify that their marriage is in accordance to the laws that govern the union. But she is no villain. And the Christian right would sure love a martyr.

I also wonder, would the debate be as heated if this were about weed? Would we have as much to say about a doctor refusing to prescribe medical marijuana, or would we just laugh and let economics be our voice. The supports of medicinal marijuana would simply stop going to that doctor, and I feel there is enough out there that it would make a significant impact on his business. We have a choice in our private doctors but not our public officials, that is until election season.

We must remember how far we’ve come and that we, the weirds, the fringe, the outcasts, were once the oppressed. Christianity itself was once a death sentence (still is in some countries). We’ve made amazing strides and the collective conscious of man has grown by leaps and bounds. Now is time to lead by example, to practice the tolerance we have so worked for. I’m not saying free Kim Davis, I’m saying stop fucking talking about her. Instead, let us talk about the fact that there are still people out there who think homosexuality is a sin punishable by death. There are people out there that still believe in enforcing that punishment. Let us change the conversation to talk about the changes our society in becoming more accepting. Let’s discuss the views of those running for President and support those who will be champions to continue the progress we’ve made. Let us show that We, the Freaks, are capable of love, understanding, and compassion that is unfathomable by those who operate with judgement and hate in their hearts. We are on the dawn of a new consciousness, we are birthing a millenia of humanity where freedom is a birthright and not something that must be fought for. We must set the tone for future generations by refusing to pass on the grudges and feuds and prejudices of our forefathers. We must vow to teach non-violence AND to practice it.

We cannot snuff out bullying by being bullies ourselves.