This essay was something I had put together on Facebook a few days after the horrors of the Pulse Nightclub Massacre, 12 June 2016, and it popped up on my memories page this morning. Adding/updating a few bits here and there, this is what I wrote one year ago. And it is still the case that Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love.
Okay kittens, time to address the ever-present elephant in the room this week.
Our long weekend whirlwind of love and happiness came to a crashing halt on Sunday morning. Anne and I had woken early, and were sitting up howling with laughter while watching cute kitten videos. This was the morning after we had exchanged promise rings, and had celebrated the day before.
Then my phone chirped with a text message:
CHECK YOUR AP NEWSFEED – IMPORTANT
Another journalist from one of the magazines I write for was giving me a head’s up on breaking news.
At that time, the news was 20 dead, 42 injured in Orlando. The details that Anne and I were scanning were more horrendous the further we read. I literally felt like we had been slammed into the pavement.
Anne was in tears, all she kept repeating was about the families, the loved ones, the partners, etc. What I eventually managed to decipher through her tears was her cousin and his partner lived one block away and frequented Pulse nightclub.
Then begins the process of checking in. Reach out to friends and loved ones who are in that area. Are you okay? And you pray that you get a quick response, that they hear their phone, that they can respond, that they are still drawing breath.
You hope against hope that it is not the experience of those first responders who attended the scene:
After an hour of nail-biting and tears, I said, okay Sunshine, let’s get out of the apartment and be among people. We headed out into the neighbourhood, to a place that is like a communal living room where people gather. People were busy watching the soccer games in Europe, and I was silently thankful that there was no news on any of the screens. At least at first. One of the televisions had CP24 on, and they cutaway live to Orlando for a press conference. The numbers had climbed. 49 dead, 53 injured. We were shocked silent, and then Anne collapsed in tears against me.
How? How could this be? Why now? The questions are endless, the answers are few.
Finally I was able to stop Anne’s tears and then she heard from her cousin that he and his partner were safe. Big sigh of relief. And again, a pressing need to be among even more people in public. We went to the store to pick up a few things, and rather than turn around and immediately go back home again, Anne said, “C’mon Cookie, let’s go for a walk.”
So we did, we walked along a busy Sunday morning Front Street, proudly holding hands, closer than ever, and showing our defiance that we will not be hidden or erased, that we exist, that we love and are in love, that love is simply love, and that we deserve to be able to live our own lives. We worked our way back home and were absolutely exhausted. Not the usual physically tired way, but just emotionally and mentally drained, and we curled up for a nap. Once Anne was asleep, I reached for my phone to check in and see what was happening and who was organizing what.
How perfect that the Toronto Sisters had already put together a candlelight vigil for Orlando that evening in Barbara Hall Park. Yes, I would be there. Anne should be safely back home by that point, and I wanted to be with our chosen family. It’s what you do in times of crisis, you reach out to be with those who feel as you do.
Saying a quick safe travels before Anne left for home turned into something more involved and deeply meaningful. In times like these you hug longer and tighter, you get in more kisses, and you say I love you with a new meaning. It’s that need to let your significant other know… Just in case…
And again, love is love is love is love…
We agreed to check in hourly throughout the rest of the day.
Breathe woman, there is work to be done.
Things have changed over my years on the planet. In my youth, this would have left me a tear-soaked mess, curled up in a ball in a corner, and wanting to hide away from the world. And now, with all that I have lived through, experienced, survived, you can’t help but become more than a little rough around the edges (my friend Kim calls it being as rough as a badger’s arse) more for self-preservation than anything else. If you wonder why Trans people tend to have a very dark sense of humour, look at the numbers of dead from among our family and see why it is necessary.
That night at the vigil… I had arrived early to get a few quick pictures for the feature image for my column. Even arriving very early, there was already a large number of people present. By the time the vigil began, we had filled the park beyond capacity, had flowed out onto Church Street north and south of the park, and through the other side of the park onto side streets (I heard crowd estimates up to 10,000 people).
I stood with friends that evening. Everybody there was part of the same family. Anne messaged me worrying about my safety and did I have an escape route planned in case there was trouble. I replied, “I am with my rainbow cops Sunshine (Danielle and Henry), I am with our family members in great numbers. There is no safer place to be at this moment.” Promised to keep checking in hourly.
You notice how things have changed and how a crisis brings family together even closer than before. Noticed the changes in politics when Mayor John Tory arrived and was slowly making his way through the family assembled. Gotta love it when the mayor gives you a hug and a kind word. Everybody was there, because literally seconds after, Premier Kathleen Wynne and her partner Jane were making their way through, speaking quietly with people. The silence and the candlelight was a moment always to be remembered. Anne and I had a long conversation when I got back home that night (after she had a huge sigh of relief that I was home and safe).
Then it’s time to make the world work again come the next morning.
As expected, take the planned schedule for the week and set light to it. There’s only one thing to do, just dance with it and what will get done will get done.
Can you do an interview for CBC’s The National? (You can click the link to watch the video on YouTube.) Sure, maybe I can handle three or four other things while I’m in that area too. It’s all part of the dance.
In the Village meet family… Share hugs, hold back tears, a look speaks volumes… Same question each time, heavily laden with significance, “are you okay?” You squeeze hands a little tighter.
I’ve been around the Village for three days in a row… People may have pasted on a smile and be doing a good imitation of chipper and happy clappy… Inside we are all the same… A bundle of raw emotions. Our safe spaces have been invaded and violated yet again.
There are 49 empty seats at our table. It cannot be, but it is.
Last night, prior to the Trans Youth Human Rights panel, saw my friend Henry. We were having a quiet word at the back of the room. He told me, he’s been working non-stop since Sunday without a rest or a break or time to think. He is an out and proud gay cop, and we have worked together for a few years on how to fix the world for our family members. He was telling me that he was driving to last night’s event, and passed the corner of King and Bay Streets and saw the rainbow flag beside the Canadian flag and both were at half-mast. He had to pull his car over for a minute, the wave of emotions was hard to take.
As we all do, we get to work dealing with the aftermath and looking after our family and making sure we are safe. You don’t usually stop until after the worst has passed and then it hits you. Anne agreed, the same thing happens in her career, nursing, you are so busy doing your best to make a difference, that you have no time to feel until after your shift is over. You’re needed, there is not time for anything for yourself until later. Self-care is an afterthought, your family is suffering you must look after them first.
And then last night at the start of the human rights panel… The reading of the names of those family members violently torn from us, and how long it took to read 49 names. You’ve heard about six degrees of separation, a great many of us in that room were no more than two or three degrees away from one of the 49. One of my dearest friends knew very well one of the victims, which meant I was two degrees away. You can see how it works.
And yet it strikes me as odd that people remark about my bravery being out and about in public. I don’t think there is bravery involved. It’s more like a boiling rage that can only be vented by being visible and as usual, ballsy as fuck. This T will not be silenced. And for those who worry about safety, honey, I could get flattened by a bus while crossing the road any day… When it is my time, it will be my time, not a moment sooner or a moment later. Until that time comes, there is a hell of a lot of work to be done.
And then I see a glimmer of light. Someone commented on a recent video that Stephanie posted about her opening remarks at last night’s event when she spoke of how we met in 2014 and what that meant… A young person said, she is now being Christine for others. Yes, that’s paying it forward, this means that I did my job. I am so so so proud of her. She is why I will not be kept hiding, I have too much to be done to fix the world, and I have to be out there doing it to have it happen.
There have been numerous pieces written and posted about the meanings and how to react. Look, it’s really simple kittens…
My LGBTQ family is hurting badly right now. We are in mourning for those we have lost from our family. So one thing… Please, when I say I do not wish to discuss the gunman and his motives, actions, reasons, etc., please honour that. Do not continue to feed your personal fascination for Forensic Psychiatry for Dummies in my presence. I have no desire whatsoever to discuss the scum who mercilessly killed our family members. You can ask how we are, please… And when you do, be prepared to listen. Do not say how we must be crazy to want to go ahead with Pride activities. We know the risk, trust me on this point. There is a cost that we all pay personally to be able to live what we know to be our truth each and every day that we draw breath.
As much as you may wish to discuss the finite details of this crime, I don’t. I wish to honour those we have lost in my own way, in my own time, with my own rainbow family members.
But, as I have maintained since early that Sunday morning after the initial news reports, and I will keep saying this until people finally get it…
Love Conquers All.
Simple. Three words. Not difficult to get the meaning.
Revenge serves no purpose.
Blame only continues the pain.
Reach out to those people in your life who truly matter to you, and TELL THEM. Do not miss the opportunity and live with the regret of missed communications. Tell people you love them, and when you do, LOVE each other INTENSELY.
We are the people that the world needs.
We can change the world for the better.
We can do better.
Remember the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda at the 2016 Tony Awards:
“…And Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love is Love and Love cannot be killed or swept aside… Now fill the world with music, love and pride.”
Please, dear God, not one more.
Love, sunbeams, and kitten dreams