As a strong and steady pulse indicates a healthy heart, in the aftermath of the horrific and tragic events of Orlando, I reflect on the Pulse of my LGBTQ community in this, my 70th year of life. In my mind’s eye, I sense the many LGBTQ pride marches I have attended as representing the state of health of this community.
It was a brilliantly sunny, though rather cool, mid-June afternoon. Banners flying, music blasting, people of all walks of life assembled, reuniting, greeting, embracing, kissing, catching up on lives lived in the space between. The signal was given with a contagious cheer rising from the crowd, and for the next few hours the streets would be ours.
Dykes on Bikes revving their engines; shirtless muscled young men dancing to a disco beat atop flatbed floats winding their way down the streets; dazzling drag queens in red and gold and silver; vibrant and proud trans people marching exalted; the Freedom Trail Marching Band trumpeting the call; and a black-and-white cocker spaniel wearing a sign announcing “DON’T ASSUME I’M STRAIGHT.”
LGBTQ parents pushing strollers or walking beside youth of all ages; Gays for Patsy Klein decked out in their finest country duds, two-stepping down the boulevard; AIDS activists falling to the pavement of those same boulevards in mock death to expose governmental and societal inaction, which is still killing so many; and married same-sex couples walking hand in hand.
Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (P-FLAG) proclaiming “WE ARE PROUD OF OUR LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, TRANS, QUEER, & INTERSEX CHILDREN”; alongside political, social, and service organizations, business and religious caucuses of all stripes and denominations, and of course, bystanders watching the procession, holding court from the sidelines.
In the midst of this merriment and this protest, the humorous posters and angry placards, the enormous rainbow balloon sculptures arching overhead, and the colorful streamers and glistening “fairy dust” wafting down from open windows, amid the shiny black leather and shimmering lamé, the multi-colored T-shirts and the drab business suits, came the youth. Their radiant fresh faces caught the rays of the sun, as they came marching side-by-side, hand-in-hand, their middle school, high school, and college Alliance banners waving gloriously in this storm of humanity, announcing their entry, their solidarity, their feisty outrage, and yes, their pride.
They chanted “Two, Four, Six, Eight, Queer is Just as Good as Straight, Three, Five, Seven, Nine, LGBTs are Mighty Fine;” then, gaining intensity, singing, “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Homophobia Has Got to Go,” and then, as if hit by an all-consuming revelation, shouting, “We’re Here, We’re Queer, We’re Not Going Back, We’re NOT Going Back, WE’RE NOT GOING BACK!”
And indeed, they will not go back into those dark closets of fear and denial that stifles the spirit and ruins so many lives. Oh, they will physically return to their schools, their jobs, and their homes. They will continue to study and play sports, to watch movies, listen to their iPods, text on their mobile phones, and write about their days on Facebook, and Twitter.
Some will most likely continue to serve as community organizers, and some will go on to become parents, educators, and political leaders once their school days are behind.
The place they will go to, though, is nowhere that can be seen.