Grief Has A Voice -- And It's Crying Out For Unity

The following is a collection of responses I've generated over the past week. With this post I'm hoping to show that this massacre has impacted everyone, whether they're in the LGBTQ community or not, and that no one is alone in dealing with the grief, trauma, and sadness that overwhelm so many of us these days. My partner and I are afraid every day, now -- though we have always been afraid the shift of it in the air is harsher, more noticeable, more real, but while we fear we love all the more fiercely for it because that's what the world needs right now. Love, not fear. Here are what others have been feeling, thinking, and hoping for:

"Growing up, I never really knew the LGBT community even existed. It's a very strange thing for me to admit now, but growing up it was just never mentioned. Then, as I grew up I realized that I was a part of this community and related to a lot of the same fears and confusion as many of the people. It really made me think about how I wanted to live after finding out about myself and I realized that I wanted to live with love and compassion and no fear. When I heard about the Orlando shooting, and found out the shooter was a Muslim, I was instantly more saddened by it.

Being a part of the queer Muslim community is hard enough, since we are such a marginalized people, but then I realized this shooter isn't a true Muslim. Nowhere is it taught to go around killing innocent people who are just trying to feel safe in a space made for them. Nowhere was I taught that this was what my religion taught me, and I am infuriated by this hate crime that was committed against people like me.

What frightened me more was how people would perceive us now, since this was another attack but the amount of love and compassion and the fight that people are putting in to not let Muslims become even more marginalized and hated really breaks my heart and makes me hope. To see people fighting against Islamophobia and homophobia together, makes me so proud to be a part of a community like this. Because this is what love is. This is what hope does in the face of fear. To all the victims in the Orlando shooting, my heart is breaking for you, for your lives being robbed of by an individual who knows nothing about love, compassion or faith. I am not a religious person by any means, but I pray tonight that all of you have found a better place. Wherever that may be for each individual. And to the families grieving, I want to say that you are not alone, you will never be alone because there will always be those who will fight against this kind of hate and discrimination. As long as we put love above hate, we will always win."

Anonymous, location: Canada

"As a hate crime survivor, the shooting has impacted me on a deeply personal level. I've been spending a lot of time reflecting and processing my emotions. I'm grateful to still be alive, but also hurt and frustrated that so much hate still exists in the world. It's been 10 years since my friends and I were attacked, an experience that I carry with me every day, but what sticks with me the most is how the community responded. Everyone came together to support us -- and to support one another. A couple of community members even launched a local LGBT social organization to make sure everyone felt safe and welcome in the neighborhood. Today, that organization has over 1,000 members. Out attackers tried to break us, but in the end we came out stronger. My hope is that LGBTQ people, specifically LGBTQ people of color, will come out of this incident stronger. For right now, I think it's important we focus on healing."

Joe, age: 34, location: New York City, New York

"The sentence that kept repeating in my mind after I first read of the shooting was, "we're just trying to love and be loved." I'm not surprised, but more frustrated with trying to wrap my head around the idea that my love inspires such animosity. It's not new, just exhausting to constantly have to deal with this in new and different ways. I am hopeful that with the visibility brought by tragedy, people will finally understand our struggle in a more concrete way."

Angel, age: 23, location: Anaheim, California

"When I was thirteen I approached the Vicar of the church where I was christened and asked him to help me. I was scared, a lot of people around me were finding faith, saying things about people with different faiths or different colour or just loving different people, starting to make long lasting decisions and I just couldn't identify with that. I didn't believe. I didn't have faith. He sat me down and told me, "God doesn't care who you love. He doesn't care what you believe or what faith you follow. God cares that you just love, with every fibre of your being and with the deepest passion of your soul. That you treat others kindly, you give generously and you respect one another." His words have stayed with me since that day, since that very moment and he was right. I don't have a religious faith. I have faith in love.

Love is a huge word, all-encompassing and so very hard to define; you can love your cat, you can love chocolate, you can love that boy who makes you smile when you feel like crying, and you can love that girl who makes you feel like the most important person in the world. I struggle to fathom how an insane man, who clearly was xenophobic, anti-cultural and simply anti-human, can garner such attention when his actions were everything other than loving or caring or kind. What happened in Orlando isn't the first and, terribly, I doubt will be the last. But what his actions have shown me is that people are greater than the actions of one pathetic excuse of a cluster of cells.
That the global outpouring of love, solidarity and unity speaks far louder, far greater than any sense of ignorance displayed by those who choose to act out hate crimes. What the world needs in times like this is love and tolerance. The ability to accept that just because it is different, it doesn't make it wrong or any less. As long as it is fair, true and good... then we should support and stand shoulder to shoulder with each other. No matter what the media says. No matter what politicians do. Quite simply, Love and Tolerance is all we need."

Charlotte, age: 29, location: Kent, England

"American LGBTQIA people are as diverse as the country is itself; we span across class, race, politics, age, and personality, and in recent years it's seemed like this thing connecting us -- our queerness -- was finally becoming safe and we could be who we were without worrying. This disgusting hate crime has many of us afraid again. But when I think of the days of when we formed groups like Mattachine, Daughters of Bilitis, or the Gay Men's Health Crisis to survive I smile, because I'm reminded of how much we are capable. I know in my heart we will overcome."

Evan, age: 23, location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

"I'm okay. Been a hard few days. I see myself and my family and friends in the people killed and that is just really hard to process. This situation also makes me think of the immense privilege I have to not feel like this every day. In the midst of the Orlando tragedy, I've been hearing so many people use the rhetoric "gays" when referring to the victims, or people impacted by this horrific event. Let us NOT forget: this is not "a gay issue." It has NEVER been "a gay issue." This was a targeted attack on queer AND TRANS people and communities, specifically queer AND TRANS people and communities of color.

In times like these, far too often I see people referring to and caring of/about "gays" but we CANNOT forget about our trans siblings. This rhetoric only works to perpetuate the marginalization of trans folx, the patriarchy, and the gender binary. I know some of y'all are probably thinking that y'alls use of "the gays" is meant to be inclusive of queer and trans communities, but language MATTERS. Be intentional.

Every day, but ESPECIALLY in times like these, we must be intentional about being inclusive in our circles and communities. I've even noticed in the articles I've been sharing how non-inclusive the language can be. Own up for your mistakes, even if you didn't realize them at the time, and make a commitment to change your behavior. And above anything, love, be loved, and do nothing but spread love to each other."

Rob, age: 25, location: New York City, New York

"It's overwhelming. The sheer number of lives lost, families destroyed, communities gutted is horrific. I'm now additionally saddened by 'copycat' crimes, and by people who feel emboldened by this atrocity to act out on their homophobic and transphobic vitriol. Hate crimes, although not categorized as such in places like Orlando, need to be called out for what they are: acts of violence against a marginalized population. For a day or two I was shocked into silence; I wanted to slink away, but now I want to see action. I want the queer community to mobilize, to stand strong, and proud and demonstrate our resiliency. I came across a Tennessee Williams quote recently that fits how I feel: 'We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.'"

Ryan, age: 42, location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

"Since the massacre last weekend, I have had such a heavy heart and have been on an emotional roller coaster ride. I have felt extreme sadness and sorrow as if I know all 49 victims personally. I have felt fear as if I could have easily been one of the victims and I will never be safe again. I have felt irrational anger as if I want to blame other people for this. I have felt hatred for those that have expressed apathy and tried to ignore that this was a hate crime against the LGBT community. I have felt helpless knowing that I cannot even legally donate blood to help the victims of my community. I have felt even more distrust in both the political and religious institutions that should protect us. I have felt more pessimistic about the [lack of] progress that this country has made in terms of LGBT acceptance.

Above all, I have felt love from my family and those close to me. I have felt pride in my identity and community. I have felt compassion for the Muslim community who have been persecuted and blamed for the acts of one hateful individual that does not represent them or their Islamic faith. Although I have experienced many negative emotions after the horrific hate crime, I choose to not dwell on the negative emotions. I choose to not let the contagious hate consume me. I choose to not let this hate crime turn two vulnerable communities (LGBT and Muslim) against each other.

This violent hate crime will always mark a turning point in the history of the LGBT civil rights movement. However, I hope that this turning point has positive repercussions rather than negative. It is absolutely imperative that we come together with unity rather than let this divide us. We must not let fear guide our lives. We came out of those closets only to never return. We must stand together strong in the face of adversity.

Most importantly, we must always choose love."

Tyler, age: 26, location: Washington, DC

"The recent shooting in Orlando is now the worst mass shooting in American history. It hits you in the gut with the knowledge that anything can and will happen and the only difference between me and them is location. I live in a state where everyone seems to own guns. I have a coworker that complained about possible gun laws ("Now Obama gonna take away my guns") rather than spare a thought about the dead, the wounded, and the impact on the queer community.

Sometimes the who doesn't matter to people. But I want everyone to know that it matters to me."

Erica, age: 23, location: Billings, Montana

"When the news broke, my partner and I avoided hearing any details. I still caught the number of lives lost, somehow. Forty-nine. I couldn't wrap my head around it -- I still can't. Forty-nine lives. Those are forty-nine families that will never get to see their children again, forty-nine people that will either never get to make a family themselves or will never see what they become. Some were even lost beside their partners, which has shattered my own illusion of safety when I tightly grip the hand of my own partner. I will probably struggle for years to find that safety in my daily life that I had always taken for granted. People braver than I am are fighting for love, and I am grateful for them. I happily stand beside my partner and watch as he fights day and night to advocate for those with voices that go unheard while I struggle to pick up the pieces of what I thought had been a world that could accept me."

Olivia, age: 20, location: Anderson, Indiana

To ready my full statement you can visit my blog here but I will say this much -- collecting these statements really opened my eyes to how big this is and how hard people were impacted. I know people who have lost friends and loved ones. I've heard stories of drinking to apathy and working to numbness just to ignore the tragedy. Through the last week we've all been bombarded with story after story, and an endless flood of different people's takes and views but I will share this: none had effected me as much as calling up my older sister, a woman who has helped me through more than I could ever possibly thank her for, out of the blue just to see how she was.

I hadn't thought about how the tragedy in Orlando had maybe impacted her -- that was too close to home to think about that, even while gathering the statements of friends and colleagues, my own family was suffering over those same events. Her voice cracked as she told me that part of what hit so hard was that I had almost moved to Florida a year ago. It had been a plan, though fate guided me other ways and I came to Indiana instead to be with my partner.

In her voice I didn't just hear my sister, though. I heard the cracked, strained voices of everyone who has or could've lost someone they love. And, just like every blow after blow this past week, it broke my heart.

May blessings be with everyone and don't forget -- you're not alone and, come the end of the day, it's love that will help heal us, not hate.