I'm not going to write about being angry or sad or homophobia or guns or mental health or Islam or any of that. There will be plenty of that. I think in tragedies like this one, the victims often get glossed over in favor of an enormous, collective grieving process, where we all frantically try to assign blame in order to feel some sense of control, and we get angry because that's easier than dealing with our tremendous feelings of vulnerability and sadness. In this case, one aspect of the victims' identities is at the forefront, but for the people who cared about them, they were multi-faceted individuals with more to them than just their sexual orientation.
They were all once carried in the bodies of their mothers, who, more than likely, anticipated their births with excitement and happiness. They were once adorable toddlers, with sticky fingers and silly babbling, and school age children playing at recess and doing homework and sitting with their friends at lunch. Fighting with siblings, learning how to play piano or make cookies or catch a baseball, dating and getting their hearts broken, driving a lurching car in driver's ed as they figure out braking, having holiday dinners with grandparents, going off to college and getting their first apartments and maybe still calling their moms from time to time to ask how much soap is needed for laundry, or if they can come home for the weekend to have some of her good cooking.
And surely they had their struggles, too. Maybe some of them were dealing with anxiety or depression. Maybe some of them were in the midst grief from their own loss. Maybe some of them had strained relationships with their families, or were repairing rifts from long ago. Maybe some were having trouble making ends meet financially, and perhaps their friends had decided to take them out for a night of fun to forget about that for a while.
The point is, they were fellow humans. Regular people. When we forget that those who are "different" from us are still not that different, these things happen. It's so important to keep these individuals humanized - it's important for ALL of us to try to focus on the humanity of others, because that breeds kindness, cooperation, respect, and dignity. And we should remember, more than anything, the light these people brought into the lives of their loved ones. Sure, it's not always "rainbows and butterflies" - but sometimes, it is, and we so easily forget that.
I cannot do much. I am just one person, and a highly inefficient one at that. But when an attack on safe spaces has occurred, what I CAN do is let those passing through my inconsequential part of the internet know that this is a safe space for you. And not just for the LGBTQ community, either - humans of any stripe and identity can hang out here and you will be judged according to the content of your character rather than by how you are labeled.
So I finished a project yesterday that is sort of my own homage to the victims, but also symbolic of this notion of safety and acceptance. Yeah, I'm absolutely a pie in the sky, bleeding heart liberal, with severe Pollyanna tendencies. But we, as humans, have achieved so much in our short history, that I can't help but focus on that vision for all the other great things we will achieve in our future, especially when I feel small and helpless like I do with this situation. I wish that future was now, and I wish I could make it happen with the snap of my fingers. But I can't. So I just have to paint hopeful reminders as my one small contribution to help remember that vision.