I’ve been largely silent after the Orlando shooting. I really haven’t known what to say. I didn’t think I could add anything new to the conversation. But, as of last night I think I can.
Josue and I attended the Billy Currington concert in Reno, NV. last night as part of the Reno Rodeo Kickoff. We’re both country boys at heart and Josue is about as country as they come.
Any time he and I (and many other LGBT people) go out into public we know there is a calculated risk. Anything as simple as holding hands could have a harmful outcome. We live in Reno, Nevada. Nevada is a pretty conservative place. Reno isn’t an exception. We know where we live.
There is one gay bar in Reno. One. If you’re not gay you can’t really understand the significance of gay bars. But, to help you understand I’ll put it this way. Gay bars are the only place outside of your home that you can go and feel safe and comfortable just being a couple. You can hold hands, dance, hug, maybe even kiss, without the potential threat of violence against you.
That’s what shook me and the LGBT community so hard. Orlando was an attack on a sanctuary for us.
Now you can sit here with me and debate the perversion of a gay bar being a sanctuary – to which I will not entertain a response – but that’s what it was.
The beauty of a gay bar is that you don’t have to calculate your risks. You’re free to love who you love and dance the night away without worrying about if you’re going to get mocked, beat up or killed.
That was until Sunday morning.
Josue and I were both really excited for this concert. Billy Currington. He’s awesome. But, after Sunday we both had this new and heightened sense of fear. Neither of us talked about it. But, I felt it and so did he. The calculated risk just had a new variable. If a gay bar was no longer safe, the other places just became that much more unsafe.
Certainly a country concert with the good ‘ole boys from Reno isn’t something you’d imagine as a safe space.
We do this thing when we’re in public and don’t feel safe to be affectionate – we blow each other kisses. It’s our way of saying I love you and having that moment alone. There were lots of imaginary kisses last night.
Nearing the end of the concert there were so many people packed in tight to the stage. Josue was standing in front of me and I finally felt like there were enough people around us that we could go unnoticed. I put my arms around him.
We did not go unnoticed.
Some girls behind us noticed. One of the girls came up to me and tapped me on the shoulder. She said, “do you own a husky?” To which I replied “yes.” She said, “I saw you the other day (at Josue and I’s favorite breakfast spot) and at the dog park and now you’re here!” She continued, “I don’t believe in coincidences. I just want to hug you guys.”
And she did. Right there in the middle of the concert she gave Josue and I a group hug. And suddenly, the calculated risk of going to a country concert and being with each other, but not really being with each other melted away.
We were just there. Like everyone else.
Many people have reacted to what happened in Orlando. Some good, some bad and some for political gain. Many have rejected sympathy. I am not sure what the right answer is. I am insulted by those who all of the sudden are on the gay band wagon, but I don’t think that everyone who’s shown recent support is doing it for the wrong reasons.
Some people are like Stacy. Now, I don’t know Stacy. Maybe she was an LGBT supporter before Orlando, but regardless she had the courage to comfort and acknowledge us in an unsafe space.
No more blowing kisses.