The Straight Ally's Guilt After Orlando

Countless times over the past few days, I've felt a lump in my throat. And then come the tears welling in my eyes, followed by the furious effort to hold them back. There are the occasional moments when I've allowed the tears to fall -- usually prompted by the prolonged hug of someone else who's hurting -- but then I quickly pull myself together and make the tears go away.

I feel an overwhelming imperative not to make this about me. That for me, a straight ally, to be seen crying over Orlando, I'd be appropriating someone else's grief. That I'd be asking to be comforted when I am already plenty comfortable. That my privilege of being white and cisgender and straight prevents me from knowing what authentic mourning over Orlando must feel like, and so I wonder if any outward expression of grief might be perceived as a grab for attention.

But that's not it at all. I cry not just for those innocent young people who died, but because I feel an immense and overwhelming guilt that moves me to tears. Because we, the allies, could have done more. We could have prevented Orlando.

We could have been louder in our support of our LGBTQ community. We could have been more insistent that they have the same damn right to kiss their partners in public as we do. We could have taught our children from a very early age that love is love is love is love is love.

We could have enacted gun control laws that would have removed AR-15s from the streets.

We could have been better organized, we could have forced the hands of our legislators, we could have enacted better protections against such a madman. We had plenty of notice.

We could have saved these people.

I want to carry a rainbow flag sticking out of my backpack, forcing everyone who sees me to acknowledge, if even for a moment, that LGBTQ people surround them every day. I want to hold the hand of every person who is still wearing an Orlando ribbon on their lapel, days later (as is the airline pilot sitting next to me as I type this). I want to call each one of my LGBTQ friends and tell them that I love them and that I'm so, so sorry. They feel more vulnerable and afraid than ever and I could have done more.

So today I resolve to channel my guilt into action. I am going to find ways to DO more. To be more visible. To offer meaningful action instead of meaningless (though well intentioned) moments of silence. To not let this moment pass and become just another Sandy Hook, which should have inspired massive change but incredibly, did not. I call on my fellow straight allies to do the same.

The symbol of the LGBTQ community is the colors of the rainbow. And a rainbow appears amidst the rain. So today, while the LGBTQ community still holds each other in the pouring rain, let us allies be a vibrant rainbow in the background, inspiring a belief that the beautiful sun will come out again.