July 15, 2016
By Michael Benbow
Today, it is far too easy to talk about discrimination as a queer person. Prejudice is evident in our daily lives, whether it’s the stranger riding by in a car who yells faggot at you on the street or the politicians who claim you have no rights to marry.. But instead of recounting the many ways in which queer people are discriminated against, I want to write to the people of Orlando we lost this past weekend:
I want you to know that I loved you. I want you to know that even though I did not know you, never saw you, never touched you, I loved you. You were my brother, my sister, and my family. I hope that before that coward came into our home, you felt safe. I hope that you didn’t have a care in the world. I hope that you felt that thump of the base pounding from the speakers. I hope you kissed someone that night. But most of all, I hope that you knew you were loved. You were loved by family, by friends, and even by strangers. You were beautiful. You lit up the room, because you lived your authentic life. You were not afraid of letting people know you were different. You lived by your own rules. You were brave and unapologetic. You were a trailblazer. You were the newest incarnation of a long line of queer people living their lives openly.
Orlando, I was so proud of you that night. I know that in your last moments, you were not thinking of hate. You were thinking of your friends in the bar with you, hoping they made it out okay. You were thinking of your mom you got in a fight with earlier that afternoon, wishing you would have told her how much you loved her instead. You were thinking of your little sister, wondering who is going to tell her she looks bad in sequins, because her friends think everyone looks good in sequins. You were thinking about your dog at home you love more than anything in the world, praying that someone will love her as much as you did. I just want you to know Orlando, it will be okay. I have your back.
I make this promise to you. I will never forget you. I will never stop loving you. I will never let anyone tell your mom, your brother, your sister, your lover, your friend, or a stranger that you were not valued. I will never let someone tell them that you were not important, just another number. I will tell them that you had purpose. I will tell them that you mattered to someone, that you mattered to me. I will make them listen. I will make them hear your story.
Your sacrifice will not be forgotten, Orlando. Your suffering will not be in vain. Your life was cut too short, but you will live on in those of us who remain. I will meet you when I, too, part this world. But until then, my dear friend, I love you and I miss you.
May you find peace,