It’s hard for it not to feel selfish. Feeling this angry. Feeling this scared. Feeling this sad. Feeling this overwhelmed by the sensation that it could’ve been you, your boyfriend, your best friend, the nice guy who sells you underwear at those stores with photos of intimidatingly beautiful greased up porn stars wearing said underwear (who you resent for obvious reasons) in the window on Santa Monica Boulevard.
But its true. It legitimately could have been ANY of us.
And it still could. Next time. Or the next time. Or the time after that.
America is a place where you get rather used to vague and sometimes blatant homophobia. We can get married. Yay. We can be on TV. Yay. We can even win Gold Medals in the Olympics. Not me because I have NO coordination but still, yay.
But this kind of hate is all around us. Whether in the cruel speeches of people like Mike Huckabee or the less obvious but just as chilling comments a queer performer, like myself, encounters in casting offices, pitches, and development meetings. It’s everywhere. Gay might be “in” but that doesn’t mean a large portion of the world directly or indirectly hates and fears us.
I am one of the lucky ones. I live in a bubble. A nice, shiny, bright, so fucking gay you’ll know not just the lyrics to Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here” but the alternative speciality material he wrote for Shirley MacClaine in“Postcards From The Edge” kind of bubble. I’m talking GAY. And it’s wonderful and safe and so goddamn special. But when horrific moments like the one in Orlando happen, you realize that even in your safe spaces—even when you’re safely dancing on the dance floor with with your like-minded brothers and sisters, even when you’re safe in your shiny bubble—it’s possible. And as was proven this past weekend: it’s reality.
This whole tragedy is being made to be about a lot of things: guns, domestic and foreign terrorism, religion. It’s about all of those things but at it’s core it’s about hate. A thing we’re all just used to. We’re used to someone running for President of the United States saying your gay son shouldn’t be able to marry his husband. That fully capable same sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to adopt children in need of homes. We’re used to TV networks cutting away right before two men kiss. We’re used to the fact that gay people cannot donate blood, even in a tragedy like the one Sunday. We’re used to gay jokes in mediocre movies made by heterosexual millionaires. We’re used to queer kids killing themselves and sending our prayers and thoughts then moving on to make sure a transgender person doesn’t take a piss next to you at Applebee’s. We’re used to the classic faggot name calling from a random car driving by when we’re just walking our dogs or holding our boyfriend’s hand.
You might be shocked by the events in Orlando, but I am not. Many of us aren’t.
I’m not saying anything you haven’t already heard. I’m not fixing anything and I’m not trying to. I guess I’m just confused and I’m trying to get this out of my heart, through my brain, into my fingers, onto these keys, and into these words. They won’t bring those people back. They won’t make those mothers and fathers stop crying. They won’t solve homophobia. They won’t cure hate, but I’m hoping they’ll help me understand all of this a little better. Because the hole I’m feeling in my heart for these victims and their families is too wide. Because the rage I’m feeling toward the people in the media avoiding the very blatant fact that this is a gay hate crime is too strong. Because this is a country that was perfectly primed for this kind of attack. Your rhetoric was just the overture and it’s shocking it didn’t happen sooner. So many politicians, teachers, parents, churches, and twitter trolls have preached hate for long enough that of course this happened. Your rhetoric was the overture, Orlando was the opening number, and who the fuck knows where we’ll be by the grand finale.
Don’t be shocked. Don’t send your prayers. Don’t keep those families whose lives have been destroyed in your thoughts. Do something. Stop your antiquated judgment. Next time you hear someone make a “totally harmless” joke at a gay person’s expense—say something. Next time a politician says yet another piece of homophobic rhetoric—make sure everyone in your life knows about it and do everything you can to stop people from voting for them. Next time the media silences the very real fact that this was an LGBTQ HATE CRIME say something. Scream. Shout. Fight. Write something. Sing something. Whatever fuck you need to do. But the reality is that this just the beginning. We can’t just sit here. I don’t know what the fuck to do and I’m certainly not giving you advice on how to handle this but do something. Please. For the sake of your friends, your children, your grandchildren, and most of all those victims in Orlando: DO SOMETHING. Because I fear this is just the beginning.
Jeffery Self is a writer and performer. He created and produced two seasons of his own show for LogoTV, Jeffery & Cole Casserole. He has also appeared in Desperate Housewives, 90210, Hot In Cleveland, Shameless, Torchwood, Difficult People, and as Liz Lemon’s cousin Randy on 30 Rock. He has served as a writer and producer on multiple seasons of Funny Or Die’s Billy On The Street, as well as their Gay of Thrones web series. He is the author of Straight People: A Spotter’s Guide to the Fascinating World of Heterosexuals, 50 Shades of Gay, and the upcoming Drag Teen, a young adult novel published by Scholastic. He also hosts a weekly podcast on iTunes, This is Really Important with Jeffery Self and is the host of Scream: After Dark on MTV.
Self will be hosting a Facebook Live Stream Telethon today from 3-5:30 PM/PT. He will be sharing stories about how great it is to be queer and celebrating the lives lost in Orlando. More details below: