On Being Gay: Surviving the Daily Assault

The week after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016, our Presbyterian church in the north Georgia mountains planned a memorial service one evening. I responded, not with love and appreciation, but with annoyance, anger.

I dearly love that church, but the idea of the service didn’t sit right with me, even though I knew the organizers were well-meaning. I refused to be part of it. It was on a weeknight. I said I was busy. But the reason I didn’t attend the event ran far deeper.

Six years later, I still ask myself why.

And now it has happened again. Another Saturday night massacre in an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado. And the outpouring of sympathy is just as expected, very much like the outpouring after Pulse … prayers, vigils, flowers, teddy bears. And once again, I’m reacting not with sympathy, but with anger, annoyance.

Why? Because it’s like singling out one fire, one tornado when there are hundreds of others that go unnoticed, that Jim Cantore isn’t assigned to cover. Because a rare day goes by when LGBTQ+ people are not attacked in some form or fashion, even in a way that doesn’t draw a puddle of blood, even at an age when we are barely old enough to remember it consciously. But remember it we do. Our minds and our bodies. And few of us get flowers and teddy bears when it happens.

Speaking for myself, I remember the mean jokes about an effeminate boy in the small Tennessee town where I grew up. Benjamin was a blond, willowy teenager then, maybe eight years older than I, but even then I knew he and I had something in common. And though the town’s verbal bullets were aimed at him, they grazed me. I haven’t forgotten how that felt.

I think that’s why the sudden outpouring of sympathy after these high-profile events strikes me as a little bit … false, for lack of a better word?

For Ted and me, there are countless other bullets: the World Cup in Qatar; the 1998 death of Matthew Shepard; the signing into law of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 by U.S. President Bill Clinton, a man for whom we had voted, a man whose election we celebrated late into the night at Colony Square in Atlanta, with people we knew nothing about except the fact that they were LIKE US, that we were all in this together. Ministers, legislators at the local, state and federal levels, judges, school boards, teachers … the list goes on of those who continue to fire their own figurative bullets at us on a virtually daily basis.

It’s why we cherish more and more the many family members and friends who love and support us.

I can’t begin to express what your ally-ship means to us. Because you know the fight goes on every day … in the quietest moments as well as the most horrifying, bullet-riddled ones. Because you know the fight is far from over.

Yes, I probably would attend that 2016 service at the church if I could go back and do it all over again. But there is a lesson for me in understanding why I didn’t go that first time around. A lesson that prayers aren’t enough. That soothing our grief and pain might not be as important as keeping it alive, using it as a springboard for positive action in this tough old world.

Just last week, we read in the headlines that the congressional vote on the bill to protect same-sex and interracial marriages still faces significant “procedural” hurdles. And yet we’re supposed to be shocked by a bloody nightclub massacre that, more than likely, sprang from the same impulse as do those procedural hurdles.

Hate, indeed, has many faces. I guess it’s only human nature to respond to the loudest, noisiest ones … and give the more carefully camouflaged ones a pass.

So yes, I mourn what happened in Colorado Springs . Yes, it was a particularly vehement way of cutting us down.

But not the only one.

And, sadly, it won’t be the last.

10 thoughts on “On Being Gay: Surviving the Daily Assault

  1. Mike, I am sorry for your pain and share your anger at the ease with which people and organizations cave in to anti-LGBTQ bigotry around the world. Thank you for posting this reflection. We all need to be continually reminded of what’s going on.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Mike for your honest response to another senseless act of violence against the LGBTQ community. Sending love and light during this dark time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Mike, Thanks you for your moving and heartfelt message. Gary and I were visiting Steve and John in St. Pete when the Orlando massacre happened so I didn’t know about the vigil held at NPC. I’m sure I would have gone to it because I was appalled by the senseless attack and felt deeply saddened for the loss the families of victims experienced. So I have to say that your reaction surprised me at first. But after reading your explanation for your anger, I understand a little better where that anger is coming from. Your description of the “countless other bullets” is a powerful reminder of what members of the gay community experience every day. I am as exasperated as you are by the lack of action in congress and agree that we can’t stop fighting for LGBQT+ rights. I know we don’t need to remind you of this, but Gary and I are now and will forever be behind you and with you in that cause! Love, Nancy

    Sent from my iPad



  4. Thank you, Mike, for being so open and honest and vulnerable in this post. While the violence we humans commit against our own kind are a particular scar on the our species and God’s creation, the casual hatreds we enact each day are just as wounding.


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