It's been over a month since the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Other things have happened in the world, and the media has mostly forgotten about the incident, but we haven't.
I was a 21-year-old, naïve Alabama boy living in Los Angeles when I went to my first gay club. I'll never forget that feeling. The lights, the energy, the boys. I was scared, overwhelmed and sexually aroused, and I had a sparkle in my eye for the first time that I hadn't experienced before.
It was like entering a magic kingdom. The second you walk through the doors, the world around you goes blank.
You forget about hiding who you are from your family. You don't think twice about how the clothing you're wearing may make you appear gay and you might be ridiculed for it. Hell, I've learned sometimes the tighter and smaller, the better.
That was eight years ago, when I felt the light inside me shine for the first time. And today, that light shines even brighter.
I am a 29-year-old gay man who works in a gay bar in NYC for extra cash, and every weekend, I still see that same look on someone's face when they come to the bar and order a drink.
Gay bars are amazing places. They're a place where we, as a community, can feel like we're home; they're a place where we belong. A night out at a gay bar with friends is sometimes like a dream you never want to wake up from.
Sadly, that dream turned into a nightmare for hundreds of people at Pulse. A domestic terrorist killed 49 people and wounded at least 53 others. But, he did more than kill people that night. He ripped a hole in the LGBTQ+ community that may never be filled again.
Still, at this very moment, I don't have the right words to convey what I felt when I heard the news. I was mad as hell. I wanted to cry, scream and hug someone, and all the while, I was trying to remain sympathetic for the victims.
Some news outlets were just reporting “shooting at a bar in Orlando," leaving out the fact it was a gay bar. But this was a personal attack on my friends, my gay brothers, sisters and allies.
For a little while there, everyone thought the LGBTQ+ movement was over. “They can get married now. They have rights." This is the ideology of ignorance a lot of people believe.
To prove there is still work to be done, let's consider the fact I worked for a national satellite radio company (there's only one) for the LGBTQ+ (or, as it was "lovingly" referred to as, “the gay channel") community. The channel was cancelled earlier this year.
Some internal chatter was that being gay had become “mainstream,” so what's the reasoning for having their own channel if they're popular?
Well, if you consider being gunned down in the largest mass shooting in US history because you are gay as “mainstream," then I guess we finally made it.
This is the thinking of a large population in this country. "Why do gay people need their own outlet?"
Well, just like OutQ on SiriusXM was, LOGO TV, Pulse nightclub and this amazing place known as the Queer Culture section at Elite Daily are where some of us feel at home. These are our sanctuaries. They are the places we go to when we want to feel like we're a part of something. For once, we don't feel like outcasts because everyone there is just like us.
This mass shooting has sparked a national debate about tolerance, gun control, terrorism and so much more. It has also lit a fire under the queer community's ass.
It has brought us together and made us realize the fight isn't over. And just like many of my friends, it's a fight we never plan to give up on.