When There’s No Place to Feel Safe

By Denzel McCampbell

Growing up, LGBTQ pride celebrations were always the beacon of light for me. The festivals were places I knew I would see, hear from, and simply exist with people who were marginalized because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression. As a teen, I was not so much paying attention to the political aspects against the community as a whole, but the political issues many LGBTQ folks deal with personally. It was a place where I knew I most likely would not be called gay slurs, a place where I could let my guard down a tiny bit to be proud of every part of myself. As an adult, I have continued to view pride events and LGBTQ nightclubs in that light.

The shooting at Pulse Nightclub and the arrest of a man heading to Los Angeles Pride on Sunday with firearms and explosives changed that for me.

Hate and intolerance has created a barrier of fear and violence in the daily lives of LGBTQ folks, especially trans and gender non-conforming people, and particularly queer and trans people of color. The feeling of being unsafe and unwanted in your home, workplace, community, church, and doctor’s office (among other places) is a common feeling for many LGBTQ people. Places like pride festivals and LGBTQ nightclubs have long served as safe venues to melt the fear away and to provide a blanket of security just a bit, even for a short time.

The massacre at Pulse Nightclub changed that for me.

I’m not writing this to say that I will not attend pride celebrations or that I will not step inside a LGBTQ nightclub anymore. I walked in the Motor City Pride Parade on Sunday and attended the festival with the purpose of participating and holding space for those in the community who depend on pride celebrations to provide the same healing, acceptance, and visibility, just as I did and continue to do so. LGBTQ pride celebrations began on the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising – a response to violence performed against the LGBTQ community by New York City police. The community has already shown resilience following the shooting in Orlando, but we shouldn’t have to do this. The people who were having a good time at Pulse should be here today. A community that has consistently experienced violence is now left wondering: where can we feel safe?

I am writing this for those who have not experienced marginalization based on your sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. I’m writing this for those who may not realize that queer and trans people of color often have to rely on the chosen family they meet at pride celebrations and nightclubs to provide the love, respect, and compassion that many others often take for granted. I’m writing this as a cis-gender male recognizing that trans folks, especially trans women of color, continuously live their lives in fear from those inside and outside the community and from neighbors, police, and family. I’m writing this to say that I’m hurting and I’ve seen many in the LGBTQ community express similar pain.

Today and from now on, please affirm a LGBTQ person genuinely. Thank them for simply existing in this world and provide genuine support.

When we speak about the shooting in Orlando at Pulse Nightclub, please remember and honor those were not able to return to their loved ones on Sunday because of an act of hate. Please keep the pain, grief, and fear being experienced by the community in Orlando in your mind and hearts. Realize that the fear this attack has ushered in extends across the United States for people in the LGBTQ community. Remember that this was an attack on what many in the LGBTQ community view as a safe space. Keep in mind that this massacre happened during Pulse Nightclub’s Latin Night and the crowd was mostly Latinx and Black. Remember that this attack has allowed bigots to vilify our Muslim brothers and sisters and has further marginalized LGBTQ Muslims. Remember and speak up to say that homophobia, transphobia, and Islamophobia have no place in our society and reject all rhetoric that goes against this.

Rhetoric that vilifies marginalized groups continues to lend itself to a toxic, dangerous, and violent environment. We should hold our elected officials, community leaders, religious leaders, families, and friends accountable and we should speak in favor of a respectful, accepting, and compassionate society. We should have honest conversations on how we’ve allowed violence and guns to invade our lives and we should push for concrete actions against them. Only then will we progress toward a place where children, teens, and adults alike can feel safe and accepted at every junction of their journey through life.