I’m on autopilot today as I go through the motions of working. Since I work in IT, that is all that is really required of me, because IT does not require soul… which is good, because mine is broken and bleeding. People talk all the time about their hearts being broken; this feels like much more than that. All of my internalized homophobia triggers are being set off at once.. all of the things that tell me it is dangerous to hold hands in public, that a kiss could have me beaten… that hiding in the world is better than not.
I haven’t truly felt this way since 7th grade. It’s too late now, of course. Everybody and their dog knows by now that I love women… all of them. Straight, bi, gay, MTF… it doesn’t matter. If you were picking lesbians out of a lineup, I’m betting I’d be first. But there is nothing more that I want today than to be able to crawl back into the closet and stay there, akin to being afraid of the monsters under my bed.
No, the attack didn’t happen in DC, and I have found that DC is one of The Gayest Places on Earth.™ It doesn’t erase my fear, though. I was born in the late 70’s, came out in the early ’90s, and all of that goes into the perspective I have on how safe it is to be “out…” There were “kids” in that club born after all the hell I went through, never thinking that something like this could happen to them. It was just last year that marriage equality was announced by the Supreme Court, and I cannot help but think that it made everything worse for the moment. Not five to 10 years from now, but in this very moment, when bigots are mad it happened at all and “gay Jim Crow” is dying a slow and painful death. If you’ve been keeping up with Twitter, you’ll know that I feel doubly safe that I got out of the South just in time… because yes, Maryland is under the Mason-Dixon line, but there is a palpable difference when you cross the line from Northern Virginia into DC and up into my small but mighty blue state.
Though originally I wanted to move back to NoVA, just because I was familiar with it, knew how to get around, etc., I cannot believe the opportunity that fell into my lap. Because even though NoVA has extraordinarily blue pockets, laws are controlled by “St. Bob’s country,” a nickname for all the people still bitter that the South lost the “War of Northern Aggression.” People who still believe that the war was all about “states’ rights” as if there was more than one they were fighting for than the ability to own people.
I would like to say that things are different now, but there’s just a new group of people to oppress, especially now that the federal government has become involved and the South has no choice anymore. I can’t help but think that this lack of choice is fueling the fire, one that will eventually turn to ash, but will not show signs of it anytime soon.
If it seems like this post is coming from a hopeless place, you’re right.
There aren’t monsters under my bed, there are monsters in my country. The good news in all of this is that if ISIS really does take responsibility for this bombing, there will be military, DIA, and CIA all over their asses…. as if they aren’t already. As Fred Rogers famously said, “in tragedy, look for the helpers.” As a progressive Christian, two ideas run through my head simultaneously.
The first is “kill them all. That’s just how I roll.” The second is “how can I become more loving, more forgiving, more Christ-like in a mess where he would be outraged as well?” In case you were wondering, prety sure that this is a table-flipping whips and chains situation. I know that my Christ-like side will win, but like everyone else, I am allowed my human moments of disgust and hatred as I work through my timeline of grief, because part of it is “it could have been me.” BUT I CANNOT LET DARKNESS WIN. There is too much of it in the world already.
Moreover, I will forgive the shooter, not because it changes anything but me. Right now, all I can muster is pity. Whether this was homophobia or terrorism or both, it does not matter. Sick minds are sick minds, no matter from whence they come. Mental illness has beget mental illness as the news reports more than one person saying “we brought this on ourselves.” That the problem is not a terrorist but Godless heathens who wallow in sin. Wasn’t it the “Lt. Guv” of Texas who said, “you reap what you sow? That God cannot be mocked?” He has since deleted the Tweet, but the damage has been done. Screenshots were taken. That tattoo will follow him forever, if there is truly justice in the world.
Because what I know for sure is that God is not the Actor in this situation…. and God never has been. Even in the Old Testament, which is full of stories of vengeance, the prophet Jeremiah writes, for I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Even in the Old Testament, there is a promise theology that is meant for gay and straight Christians alike.
If you are wondering where God is in all the tragedy, look no further than “the helpers.”