Safe harbor. Sanctuary. A place where you can breathe more easily, where you can just be. That’s what I felt the first time I went to a gay club and what I’ve felt every time since. It is, I imagine, part of what drew so many to Pulse, a gay club in Orlando, for Latin Night on Saturday.
The horrific attack that took place there defies the imagination. Our hearts are heavy with grief for the victims’ friends and families and anxious with worry for the injured. We pray that they will have the strength and support to endure the unbearable and that they will know they are not alone.
What happened makes clear to the world what so many of us already knew: hatred persists against LGBT people and with hate comes an effort to intimidate, to say you are not safe in public, or in private.
This is the hard truth: as long as fundamentalist religious teachings – across traditions – degrade LGBT people, as long as hatred festers in state laws, as long as extremists hold political power, then anti-LGBT violence – physical and spiritual – will continue. We live that reality every day in the South.
Moments like this are a crucible: will we choose love or hate? Will we retreat or push forward? Each of us will navigate these choices as individuals.
But we are also called to respond as a community. And so, in our grief, our anger, we share this invitation with you:
Let us honor those we have lost by loving fiercely. Let us create light in this dark hour by intensifying efforts to achieve equality and justice for all.
And as our hearts break, let us think of those whose hearts are still healing, including congregants at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, including the families of Newtown, including a litany of names and towns that now span our nation.
If you are in Asheville, join us tonight for a vigil to honor the victims in Orlando, hosted by O.Henry’s:
Executive Director, Campaign for Southern Equality