By J.A. Gooch

“[W]e are the pulse of our movement—a revolution that thrives on a message of inclusion and diversity and the powerful truth that love is love is love is love.  We are the life-force behind our fight for equality, a fight that can only be continued by the living.  So please, Dear Ones, dance! Sashay to the beat of our unified hearts.  It’s okay to cry today, but tomorrow, we dance!  For we are still alive and well.”

--J.A. Gooch

On this day—just one year ago—the city of Orlando, FL was subjected to inexplicable tragedy and evil.  On this day—just 365 yesterdays gone by—countless mothers, fathers, sisters, lovers, friends, coworkers, etc. were confronted with the horror that someone they cherished was lost to the deadliest mass shooting in memorable American history.  But while it is true that 49 men and women danced their last on June 12, 2016, we, the ones they left behind—in spite of our weariness and heartbreak—must continue to dance the dance. 

Now, I was not at Pulse nightclub that night.  In fact, I, as the majority of us were, was as far away from the rhythmic thrum of the pulsating Latin music and synchronized neon beams as one could possibly be, peacefully sleeping in the surety of a tomorrow.  With that said, one would assume the ease at which someone so distant from the events of that night could say, “Keep on keeping on!”, right?  Because no matter how much we try to imagine the experiences of those on the dance floor or their loved ones, we can’t; we can’t even begin to fathom the fear and pain of the directly involved.  Nevertheless, as my eyes opened the morning after to the stream of bewildered shock permeating my television and social media newsfeeds, I couldn’t help but try to imagine.

Like so many in the LGBT community.  I wanted so badly to drop everything on my agenda and fly to Florida to offer anything I could to whomever I could.  For me, there was a need to do more than just add the “We are Orlando” filter to my Facebook profile picture.  I longed deeply to stand in solidarity with the families and friends of the victims (Real solidarity, not the mere “My thoughts and prayers are with you” brand, which unfortunately was all I could think of.).  It wasn’t until a week later, when I was asked by a couple of close friends to enjoy a night out in my small college town as a late birthday celebration, that I realized the role I was meant to play in the tragedy far worse than fiction. 

When they mentioned “the gay bar,” as it is commonly referred to here, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of foreboding swell in my chest.  “Why in the world would I want to go to a place like that in a town that isn’t necessarily the gay-friendliest place in the on Earth?” I thought to myself, cowering away from the suggestion.  I mean, I fully realize that our clubs are more fun than the traditional bars, but I just wasn’t ready to face my fear of “What if?”—well, that and breaking the global solemnity by actually enjoying myself.  And that’s when it hit me hard. 

It wasn’t a profound revelation; after all, I had heard the same sentiment time and time again on the news over the course of the previous week.  And perhaps it’s not exactly revelatory now.  But the thought of allowing the anxiety of what happened at Pulse and publically being my authentic self to cease my world from spinning was abominable to me.  Was I really about to give a dead asshole the pleasure of achieving his mission?  That’s the goal of terrorism, right?  To inspire fear in the masses by stealing the lives of a few?  The answer, I concluded, was going to be a big fat “HELL no!” 

It may have only been a small feat to venture the few blocks down the road with my friends.  But that is the moral of the story, isn’t it?  Getting out there?  Being proud of who you are?  Continuing to connect?  To interact?  To live, to laugh, to love, to DANCE?   It may have been just a small trip across town, but I—by getting dressed in my Saturday best and heading out to “the gay bar” in rural West Virginia—was directly defying the oppressor, something I have dedicated my existence to week after week, day after day, dance after dance.  That’s the ultimate contribution.

As you know, June is Pride Month.  And while today, out of the 29 others, we may struggle with feeling exceptionally proud, it is important to remember all that we have accomplished together and the opportunity we have to continue that work. You see, we are the pulse of our movement—a revolution that thrives on a message of inclusion and diversity and the powerful truth that love is love is love is love.  We are the life-force behind our fight for equality, a fight that can only be continued by the living. So please, Dear Ones, dance!  Sashay to the beat of our unified hearts.  It’s okay to cry today, but tomorrow, we dance!  For we are still alive and well. 

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