Tragedies like Orlando are often difficult for me to write about. I grew up with such relative privilege, in an affluent community where I was showered with nothing but love and support before, during, and after I came out. My instinct when asked to write about this tragedy was to say to myself: "Mine is not the voice that needs to be heard right now." Although I have experienced emotional trauma and sexual violence in my life, I have never been the victim of violent homophobia. But I am a gay man, and this is about me, it's about all of us. But then I think back to the quote that my grandfather, a Jewish man committed to social justice, had on his business cards: "Mourn not the dead, but rather the apathetic throng. The cowed and the meek, who see the world's anguish and its wrong and dare not speak," an interpretation of a poem by Ralph Chaplin. And I realize that now is not the time to be silent, as uncomfortable as speaking out may make me feel, as disqualified as I perceive myself to be in relating a tragedy, the scale and scope of which I have (fortunately) never come close to experiencing in my own life.
The safe space created by my family — and to some extent, the liberal city I lived in — was the exception, not the rule.
I cannot un-see what I've seen, and we all need to be vigilant and aware of all the work that still needs to be done. Gay bars are still important, brave, and sometimes dangerous places to be.