Mildly hungover after a night of revels whose details are less vague in my journal, I awoke that Sunday to several missed calls and a half dozen texts, some of which from distant acquaintances. The state with the prettiest name boasts the second longest geography; this complicates the judging of distances, as I can attest: many friends think Fort Lauderdale and Miami synonymous with South Beach. Orlando, insofar as it has a national profile, is synonymous with something called “Disney World,” also a putative few miles from “Miami.” I mention these things because people assumed I was at Pulse when the shooting started and by all accounts never stopped.
In the days that followed I would, as a gesture of mourning, honor the dead by honoring what they had come to Pulse for: dancing, drinking, hanging out, anonymous euphoric sex. I’d also feel a steady churn that I recognized later as an uncharacteristic but mild PTSD. No one in my life did anything but gasp in horror and offer sympathy, but as the 2016 campaign season unfolded, heading for a denouement as inevitable as it was pulverizing, there were unkind whispers; there was a befouling of the air. To celebrate our racial, sexual, and gender differences made us targets, indirect and otherwise. We wanted special rights. Under Barack Obama we had had it easy. Of course you can sleep with a horse for all I care, but don’t think this makes you better than me.
The election of the former president catalyzed millions of our neighbors who after wishing us a good morning would log onto Facebook and denounce us as pedophiles hiding in public school bathrooms. Those four years unveiled a series of assaults on the citizens who didn’t vote for the former president: personal and constitutional assaults that amounted to hundreds of Pulse shootings. Dumbstruck by the prescience of my adolescent reading of Thomas Hardy and his horseshit eschatology, a new plague, as deadly as HIV, made the final year of the former president’s administration hard to bear.
These assaults continue. My governor signed a bill prohibiting transgender youth from participating in school sports on the first day of Pride Month. As if warming to the task, he also vetoed lines in the new state budget allocating $150,000 in counseling for Pulse survivors and $750,000 for housing homeless gay kids. Two years ago Ron DeSantis, issuing a proclamation honoring the dead at Pulse, refused to mention the community of which they were a part. Expect other states to follow suit. And in Florida mass shootings — several a month — have made everyone a target.
To put your key in the lock after a night out, to open your eyes in the morning — to be alive the last four years is a victory. But also know: putting on makeup in the act of realizing our best selves is a victory too. To fuck is a victor (heterosexual bigots hate us for our sexual congress). To refuse to fuck is a victory (heterosexual bigots and some homosexuals hate us because we feel no sexual attraction). Don’t discount a new political federal bureaucracy in which thousands of small decisions affecting people we will never know get adjudicated. And Orlando, blessed with country’s fourth largest LGBTQ population, as explained in this terrific story about the city’s progress since 2016 — Orlando has busy activists.
This queer man knows optimism-vs-pessimism is a binary without force, much less use. You press on. You perform kindnesses. You enjoy family and friends. You read books and watch movies and drink Negronis. You press on.