Last year, I was the first openly gay man to march in the Pride Parade with the Seattle Fire Department, and I did it in celebration of marriage equality. This year, I’ll march in remembrance of the victims of the Pulse massacre.
I ASK myself why I have this fear of visibility. I go to great lengths to convince myself that my fear of being visible, of being openly myself, is an irrational fear, unfounded and illogical. I do my best to reinforce within myself the thought that being visible is no longer dangerous, is no longer deadly.
When I wake up in the morning and walk out into a world that has historically hurt me for being gay, a world that has harmed and killed others like me for hundreds of years, I encourage myself to believe that things are different, that things have changed. I imagine that some of the victims of the Pulse massacre in Orlando have faced the same internal battles, doing the hard work day in and day out to be open and face the world, despite fear and oppression. I imagine that those victims have been inspired by a country that only a year ago was celebrating a historic equal rights win: the right to marry.
Last year during Seattle Pride, we were celebrating marriage equality. This year, we mourn the victims of a massacre. It is hard for me to process that.
Things have changed and gotten better. My humble life is living proof of that. From an anti-gay religious upbringing to “don’t ask don’t tell” and to its repeal, marriage equality and working for a city that supports my people, I know that things have gotten better, for some.
But for the victims of the Pulse massacre, things got worse. As I sit here mourning their loss, and am painfully reminded of all my fears, I re-examine my visibility. All too often, it’s easier for me to coast by and to pass — to present myself as a straight-acting, masculine male. I have that privilege — and that privilege is a tool I employ often.
It’s true: It is still very dangerous to be openly gay in this world. This week is proof. That is why I have my fear of visibility. That is why I often pass as straight.
As I sit here mourning their loss, and am painfully reminded of all my fears, I re-examine my visibility.”
But what matters is visibility. What matters is faith in humanity. Being visible is like a trust fall: When we put ourselves out there for everyone to see, we need the support of those who receive that visibility. At Pulse, people who put their trust in the world to keep them safe were violently and senselessly killed. I don’t know how I could have protected them, but I will be searching for ways to protect those who remain.
And as for my invisibility, I realize that my silence and my passing have done little to help them. My moments of visibility have done some work to give support to those victims, just as their visibility continues to strengthen our community and our country, even in light of such tragedy. I thank them for their truth and for their strength. I mourn their loss and will take this sorrowful moment to re-examine my visibility and to recommit myself to do the hard, daily work of standing up for what matters, and giving voice to the voiceless and having those hard conversations about our differences.
Last year, I was told I was the first and only openly gay man to march in the Pride Parade with the Seattle Fire Department, and I did it in celebration of marriage equality. This year, I’ll march in remembrance of the victims of the Pulse massacre.