A week ago at exactly this moment the impact of the Pulse massacre overwhelmed me. Dead men and women celebrating on a Saturday night, most of whom were Puerto Rican, and before they were dead queer men and women they were victims of RADICAL ISLAM WHOA NELLY. The tone of the news coverage changed for the better. Reporters told stories about the dead and wounded. You can find them easily. Over the weekend this Father’s Day I spoke to a few straight friends and relatives who themselves looked drained, at a loss. It could’ve been my son in there, a couple said. Their sons are straight, but the solidarity was sincere.
Today’s Washington Post published another tearjerker:
To be gay in Orlando meant being a Disney makeup artist who taught everyone how to have perfect eyebrows. Or it meant being a graduate student in nonprofit management and wanting to give back to the community. Or it meant, in Evan’s case, being the second son in a close-knit Puerto Rican family from New Jersey, the son who had told his minister father nearly a decade ago that he was maybe gay and at least bisexual, and then never discussed it with him again.
He wondered sometimes whether his parents had actually forgotten about the conversation. Evan had spent six years performing on a cruise ship when a friend told him that Orlando was an easy place for a singer to make a career. So he’d come to Florida and shortly after, he’d come to Pulse, which was the other thing that being gay in Orlando meant.
It was the first gay bar Evan had ever been to in town. Fridays often meant going to Southern Nights, one of the other three big gay nightclubs in the city. Sundays were Parliament House, a kitschy gay resort complex. But Saturdays usually meant Latin nights at Pulse, where Evan and his friends avoided one of the bathrooms because it always seemed to be out of order and avoided the roped-off bottle service area because they were too broke. It was butch girls putting on their buttoned-up best and Latino dance instructors with liquid hips.
Evan, whose father never mentioned his son’s sexuality again, is a phenomenon with which I and millions are familiar. A story for another time, maybe.
(A poignant wrinkles: the death of Prince Be, announced on Friday, reminded me of their subtle queering that P.M. Dawn of hip hop and R&B in the early nineties; the emphasis on the feminine and the delight in abstraction were the group’s strengths and for skeptics the wolf’s bane).