When I was in elementary school, people talked about Columbine in the same way we talked about September 11th or the John F. Kennedy assassination. The two teenagers who went on a shooting spree at their high school in 1999 killed 13 others before killing themselves in what was once the worst school shooting in America. It was talked about like a tragedy, an anomaly – a reason we didn’t bully other kids, a reason we had lockdown drills the same way we had fire drills. But for us, our school was still a safe space – a place where we didn’t have to worry about the bad guys and where rules mandated that though we weren’t always happy with the way of things, we knew measures were in place for our own benefit.
There have been 50 mass murders or attempted mass murders at schools since Columbine. Kids now get to pick between Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Red Lake, Umpqua or countless others when they have to hide under their desks and hope that this lockdown drill is just a drill and not a person with a gun walking through the halls and shooting on sight. I wonder if these kids think of school as a safe space the way I once did.
But I know there are no safe spaces anymore – not schools, work places, concert halls, movie theatres, bars.
I didn’t want to talk about mass shootings in America in the same breath I talked about Pride, but after the horrific, sickening events in Orlando on June 12 that is now the worst mass shooting in American history, it’s ignorant and impossible not to.
No matter how we identify our gender or sexual orientation, we all need safe spaces, but those of us who don’t fit in the small vacuum of straight and cisgender need those safe spaces even more. LGBTQI+ people, in many instances, have had to create those safe spaces, either in tight-knit communities like the Castro in San Francisco, or in clubs and bars like the Stonewall Inn or Pulse. For people who have been disenfranchised, outcast and categorized as “other” for too long, having that safety and comfort taken away is more than heartbreaking.
A year ago on June 27, 2015, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. I remember scrolling through my Twitter and Facebook timelines, giddy and ecstatic that finally gay people had earned a long-overdue right and could marry the person they love, no matter their gender. The spire atop the new One World Trade Center was lit up rainbow, and it’s a sight I will never forget. For that day and the days that followed, things felt hopeful, for both the LGBTQI+ community and the U.S. as a whole.
Friends who live in New York can recall only two times they’ve seen cops outside of Stonewall Inn: When same-sex marriage was legalized last year, and after Orlando last week. Orlando was a grisly reminder that for LGBTQI+ people, the fight for equality, safety and happiness is far from over.
I could rattle off statistics about the discrimination that gay men and women face every day or the number of trans* people who are killed at alarming rates and who still can’t use their bathroom of choice, but I won’t, not now. In the aftermath of Orlando, it’s exhausting. As an ally to the LGBTQI+ community, I can only imagine the pain and heaviness they now carry with them.
When the Supreme Court came to their decision last year, this was their statement:
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
Pride is about celebrating those ideals, in becoming something greater than we once were, in love enduring past death. Last year’s Pride we celebrated this ruling by rejoicing at how far we’ve come; this year’s Pride we celebrate by reminding ourselves how far we have to go.
To our gay, lesbian, bi, trans, intersex and queer friends and family, all of us here at Bottle want you to know: We love you. We support you. And we’re here to keep fighting for you for as long as it takes.
Mia is an aspiring cat lady and obsessed with books, beauty, and pop culture. By day she works in publishing in New York City, and by night she can be found in bed, drinking Moscato and binge-watching YouTube videos.