So here I am, trying on men’s dress
pants for the Golden Crown Literary Society Awards ceremony, and I
keep thinking of the photos of our people in Orlando. They dressed up
too in their best freedom clothes, also anticipating an evening of
togetherness. I’m grateful to be alive and able to gather with
other gay women, while I can barely take in how many of us were
killed, wounded, traumatized and experienced losses because of our
I’m reading about NYC Gay Pride. When
I attended the early NYC marches, there was security, but nothing
like what’s planned in 2016. Blocks and blocks are closed to
parking. There will be thousands of officers on the streets, on
rooftops, in the air and in boats. My biggest fear in the early 1970s
was that my mother would see me on T.V. and I’d have to deal with
laying that trip on her.
Yet ever since the 1980s, when the
right wing decided it would be politically expedient to build their
power base by turning us into a featureless symbol against whom
multitudes of non-gays could unite, I have expected mass killings.
We’re natural targets for people taught by their religions that
their deities find us an abomination.
The horror of that Central Florida
night brought back the general horror of gay bars for me. Like whole
neighborhoods that house other minorities, the bars pen us in one
place where we are queer ducks— queer sitting ducks. Orlando was a
pogrom, “the organized killing of many helpless people,”* in
this case organized by a stealth enemy that turns people like the
deeply conflicted, unstable shooter into murderers.
I think affectionately of some gay
bars – I got to wear freedom clothes there too – but I also
remember the horror of them. They were a nightmare then, they’re a
nightmare again. Yet I thought of them as fun. Didn’t we all? I
loved being with other gays, but drank to tolerate the demeaning
conditions of our loud, cold, dirty, dangerous pens.
Truth be told, I’m a wallflower by
nature with seldom enough self-confidence to ask a woman to dance.
Even with the drink in me and a cigarette going, the bars bored me
silly. Any excitement came from dancing with my partner and being
surrounded by our kind.
The gawking het couples on dates who
came to laugh and stare at what to them was a grotesque sideshow, the
ones who always managed to get tables because they knew the owners of
the joints while we stood around without a place to set our drinks,
degraded, intimidated and antagonized us, their very presence a
warning that we danced to their fiddle. My rage at them continues to
this day and fuels some of what I write. It’s due to the gentle
nature of our people we are the victims of violence and our
tormentors get off scot-free.
I expected such an attack on LGBTQ
people at least since the night, in the mid-1970s, when my friend and
co-worker Carm was shot outside Partners Cafe in New Haven,
Connecticut. Carm was walking to his car when out of nowhere, someone
started shooting from a moving vehicle. Young, handsome Carm got a
bullet in the arm. Now I’m only surprised at the infrequency of the
I am surprised that a gay bar has been
designated a National Monument. This is only one of many such
dichotomies. We’re central to the frightening divide between U.S.
voters, which only confirms how powerful we really are.
It’s fitting that our monument should
be a bar. Human communities form where they can, spontaneously, and
eventually develop traditions. Hellish as they can be, at times they
were glorious, glorious! The music may have been loud past bearing,
but we danced all night! Under the glitter balls we saw ourselves
reflected in our peers like nowhere else. I was not the only shy one
and eventually a few strangers would become friends, friends grew to
circles. With a gay bar nearby we never needed to be totally alone.
A night at the bar was always a
celebration. Angry, estranged, alcoholic, festive – companionship
was there for the taking. Danger united us, as it does still.
There will be increased security at
venues and events like the one I’m headed to. I’ll be wearing my
dress-up pants, shirt, vest, pocket square and tie. Others will be in
alluring frocks, and a number in their full-dress U.S. military
uniforms. Day by day, more and more people condemn atrocities against
LGBTQ people and other minorities and we are stronger for every
I will remember the beautiful, proud
and daring men and women who were attacked that nightmare night in
Orlando, every time I don my glorious freedom clothes.
[Editor's Note: Lee Lynch is the author
of over 13 books. Her latest, An
American Queer, is available for pre-order.
You can reach Lynch at LeeLynch@ontopmag.com]
Copyright 2016 Lee Lynch.