Yesterday, I watched the sunset from the 24th floor of my hotel. I was exhausted after working Capital Pride in DC and I hadn’t had a moment to actually think about what happened in Orlando. The entire day, people mentioned it here and there, and I even solicited donations from festival goers. I feel like everyone who I met, everyone who I wished “Happy Pride!” to was just trying to maintain some sense of normalcy. Because nothing feels normal right now.
I remember wondering how this sunset could still be so beautiful when there is still so much darkness filling the world, my heart, my mind. I felt devoid of hope. I felt afraid. I, for the first time in a long time, was speechless.
My mom called me and I instantly burst into tears. I actually get to call my mom and tell her that I love her, I thought. Those 50 people who were slaughtered will never get to say those words again…
When I came out to her nearly a year ago, Mom made a small remark that she was a bit fearful for me. I didn’t understand then. In that moment, I was stepping into greater freedom. I was finally becoming the person God created me to be. What was there to be fearful of when Perfect Love had driven out all fear?
Now, I understand.
My community, my people, were targeted and murdered. And it could easily have been me or my friends in any club at any moment.
What do you say to something like that? What do you say to senseless death and violence? What do you say to blind hatred? And who do you blame for an act of terror where the perpetrator ends up losing their own life in the process?
I feel no sense of justice today. I feel no peace. I only feel horror and dread at the thought that someone could hate me so much that they would seek to end my life.
Even now, as I’m writing this, I’m pausing and weeping, unable to comprehend what has happened. I cry because of loss. I cry because of anger. I cry because I do not understand. I don’t understand any of this.
The eternal question, “Why?” is crying out from my bones, echoing out into another beautiful sunset, and I hear nothing in return.
Why, God? Why suffering? Why death? Why guns? Why hatred? Why my people?
…Why my people?
Confession: I’ve never cried over a mass shooting before. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino: my eyes were dry.
Empathetic? Yes. Angry? Absolutely. Saddened? Of course. Outraged? Completely. But I didn’t cry. Not once. It was never this personal. It never hit this close to home.
I think back to the first time I went to a gay club with my friends in college and danced. We pre gamed in the car on the way there and we had the time of our lives. I danced with a handsome stranger, got way to sweaty, and left that night smelling like menthol cigarettes. For the first time, I felt like myself. I felt like I belonged. There was no pretense and no agenda. There wasn’t any image I had to upkeep or any party line I had to tow. I simply could just be.
That’s what safety feels like: a space to simply be your whole person without fear of condemnation, rejection, or violence. And for a long time, going to a gay club felt safer than going to a church. It was my sanctuary when in the sanctuary of a church called unworthy, unclean, and abomination. And now, blood has been spilled in a sacred space.
What space do queer people have? Where can we go?
It makes me both sad and disgusted that many of the bigger voices have erased the LGBTQ+ community in this. Franklin Graham wants to make this about extremist attacking Americans and military. Perry Noble thinks that this isn’t a gun control issue or a gay issue. I’ve had a few theologians tell me that guns don’t kill people, but that people kill people. Another told me that we don’t have gun problem but a sin problem.
For people who are supposed to be filled with Divine Love, Christians sure are fucking it up when it comes to consoling a people in mourning.
I’ve said in many of my writings that sometimes “why?” is the wrong question. Because we can look at the situation and give you stats and numbers and everything else as to why this happened. But it does not bring us peace. It doesn’t bring us resolution or or justice or meaning.
We have to ask, “What now?”
Many of my straight friends have texted or called me, asking what they can do for me and how they can be there for other queer people who are suffering. The answer is very simple:
Mourn with us. Sit with us. Hold us when we need holding. Be the shoulder for us to cry on. Listen to us process what we are feeling. Pray with us and for us. But, most importantly, don’t make it about you.
Don’t try to explain this away with platitudes like, “God has a plan” or “You know, you just have to choose joy.” No. We need to mourn. We need to weep and cry and be angry and yell at the heavens.
We’re not a street evangelism project, nor do we want to hear your opinions about extremists or that you think we don’t have a gun problem.
You don’t need to know what to say. You don’t need to have the right words. Sometimes you can just sit quietly in the same room as us, and that solidarity is enough.
The most holy thing I’ve experienced today was my friend Ryan coming into the room and just touching my shoulder as I cried on the couch. That is being the Church. That is being a good Christian. Hell, that’s just being a decent human, to be honest.
…honestly, I could write a book about what I’m feeling right now, but none of us have patience to read through that. So I’ll leave you with this:
Love people well, especially the LGBTQ+ people in your life right now. Because right now, a lot of us are scared shitless. A lot of us are angry and confused. And the only thing that can dismantle fear and anger and hate is love.
Love always hopes. Love always endures. Love always perseveres.
Love never fails.
And it is to that hope I cling to. Despite everything, I believe that we are a people who are resilient, and that even in the midst of death, life can and will spring forth.
Kevin Garcia is a writer, speaker, musician, creative, recovering type-A personality and a hot mess of a human being, to say the least. He hails from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia where he got his Bachelors of Music from Christopher Newport University in May 2013 and has been everything from a missionary to a barista to a corporate office worker since then.
He believes that by telling our story, we set others free to share theirs.
Kevin is the Deep South Regional Coordinator for The Change Project and writes about following Jesus as a gay man at theKevinGarcia.com
Get Kevin’s free e-book! Just click here.
Pastors and Suicide: What You Need to Know
Pastors and Suicide: How Do We Keep this From Happening Again?
Exploring Grief: A Podcast Series (with Brandon Carleton)
The Most Important Thing to Remember When Someone Dies
You Can’t Glue Ashes: Notes on the First Year of Grief
Grief is Weird: Hosting a Birthday Party at the Graveyard
If I had Spoken at My Grandfather’s Funeral…
This Undeserved Life with Natalie Brenner