The morning of Gay Pride in Los Angeles, having woken up to the horror that has now become known as #WeAreOrlando, I took my dogs for our daily constitutional to the “Gay Starbucks” in West Hollywood and hesitated before I opened the door. After the heinous carnage that just happened at Pulse, the gay nightclub in Orlando hours earlier, a thought bubble popped over in my head like a Lichtenstein painting that read, “Oh, dear, who’s to say that a Kopy Kat Killer won’t try something here at the Mecca of Caffeine in the Mecca of Homosexuality?”
I hesitated?!? I actually hesitated? “What has become of my America?”, I bemoaned as the anger rose from my groin to my eyes. (Groin-Eyes-Gay Mecca, it seemed fitting, but you get my drift.) I defiantly swung the door open, shoulders back, chest out (like a good drag queen) because I would sooner be damned than in give in to the terrorists. That IS what we’re told we do, right? Besides, I needed my Grande 2% Flat White with an extra shot and (B) if I was going to be taken out by some self-hating, homophobic, closet-case and was insufficiently caffeinated, I’d never forgive myself.
It’s hard to find humor in tragedy, especially before any healing has taken hold. But humor has always been my armor, my solace, my Woobie since I was a toddler and I needed to find my funny fast. I was crestfallen, felt so helpless and numb to the news of the day, which would go on to becoming a seminal moment. The turning point when MY America slipped backward in time to when fear gripped New York City, my old home. I took a much-needed swig of my Flat White and strangely enough, began to think back to the Summer of Sam in 1977. Back then, New York was a mosh pit of madness. We danced our nights away at Studio 54 and on our three block walk home up Eighth Avenue, we would skulk to The Sheffield on West 57th Street in palpable fear that the Son of Sam might be lurking in any alleyway. When David Berkowitz was finally caught on that hot, summer August night, we could finally breathe a sigh of relief and resume our lives. Dirty, bankrupt New York City was once again safe for us to troll the streets looking for drugs and sex without a care in the world…which is exactly what we did.
I don’t like living in a time like that, when everyone is guilty until proven innocent. When now, just because someone has a religion, they are suspect. This is not what I have survived the plague to do and not how I intend to live my life. I am still here for a reason: to live proudly and walk tall, like a good drag queen, sans heels. My plan is to be part of the solution, not dwell on the problems. Bring light to darkness and joy to those suffering. To love others (at least my dogs) and shun hate. To speak my truth and not listen to dangerous rhetoric.
And I will be damed if I am going to let the media or Donald Trump determine what is real and what is truth. We can not take life on face value, not now, not anymore. I sure can’t or won’t. I intend to dig deep and ask questions and ask again so I get more than one point of view or answer. I’ve lived through the Summer of Sam and we’ll get through this weird imitation of that time by sheer resilience and determination. We must get out in the streets en mass and demand change. We did it in the 70’s against the War in Vietnam, we heralded in the Woman’s Movement, fought for Gay Rights and demanded funding for AIDS research. Now we must take that same energy and effect change in our gun laws. We have no choice, really. We must Act Up, Fight Back, Fight NRA. Join me.