"I hope you don't get shot." It was slightly less offensive when my friend said it to me a year ago. It was the day after the Supreme Court decision to legalize same sex marriage nationwide and we were the first musical act of the day at Nashville Pride. "Thanks for putting that idea in my head, jerk," I responded.
Shortly after walking onto the stage, I remember looking up at the towering buildings that surrounded the plaza where Nashville's pride festival takes place and imagining the worst. It was a dark thought to entertain, but ultimately irrational I decided. Nashville is mostly a progressive town, but the neighboring communities wouldn't be considered such. The sort of people who might march through a Target screaming about bathrooms, they definitely live in the surrounding rural areas. Gay marriage surely had some of them riled up that day, but preaching about trans people in Home Furnishings is a far cry from actually murdering people.
Yesterday we were once again the first act of the day at Kentuckiana Pride in Louisville, KY exactly one week from the shootings in Orlando. This was the first day of gay related events since that tragic day and I again thought about the terrible possibilities. Only this time it wasn't an irrational morbid nightmare; it was completely within the realm of reality. Might there now be another lunatic out there inspired and empowered by last week's horrific events?
Last year I walked on stage following a quite happy day in history thinking about getting shot. Yesterday I walked on stage after a terrible day in history thinking about getting shot. This is the wrong direction, right?
I'm slightly embarrassed to admit I was afraid, but I was. It's so damn unfortunate that on a day of celebration thousands of gay people around the country and world must act despite a growing reality of danger and show up proudly in public, but we must continue to do so. We cannot give into fear and retreat into hiding. Be safe and alert, but be loud and proud. They cannot win.