I don’t want to be sitting here writing this, but somehow, always in the back of my head, I knew I’d be sitting here writing this.
Sunday’s news hit me like a ton of bricks.
I’ve been a mix of emotions that last couple of days. Sad. Angry. Mad. Hopeful. But most of all sad. Sad that with as far as we have come as a society senseless acts of violence like this still happen and happen too often – still.
Sad that we’re losing site of the bigger picture. Sad that we’re arguing over why the shooter did what he did. Sad that we’re having to plead our case to our straight neighbors. Sad that we have to explain to them WHY we’re holding candlelight vigils for our fallen brothers and sisters. Sad that we have to be having this conversation at all.
Sad that what was once a safe haven for people of all walks of life has been marred by this weekend’s events. Sad that we have to explain why gay bars became our safe havens.
Well before I turned 21 (we’re talking like 17/18 here) I was sneaking into gay bars almost every weekend. Not with the sole purpose of getting drunk or finding the love of my life, but to find people that were like me.
Because as a 17 year old gay man in rural Indiana I was the only gay person I knew. The friends I tried to talk about my struggles, my sexuality, and my feelings were the same friends that would run and tell my parents, my ministers, and the entire church that I was “still gay”.
The friends I met at the gay bars though? Those friends didn’t even know me. Didn’t know my story. But they welcomed me with open arms regardless. They opened their homes to me. They set places for me at their Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners when I wasn’t welcome at own home.
They were there when I needed a shoulder to cry on, or to attempt to give me advice (which I never listened t0) about whatever guy I was having issues with at the time. They slowly but surely became the family that I wasn’t sure I’d ever have again.
Friends that I wouldn’t be here typing this today without. Friends that became family. Friends that saved me from dark place I found myself in after coming out at 14. Friends that saved my life. Friends that made gay bars safe havens.
Friends just like the ones we lost on Saturday night. Friends that may have had their lights snuffed too early, but friends that will never be forgotten.
Much like the church to Christians is the people inside of it, not the building itself, the gay bar in our community is the network of friends that have become a family that never knew we’d have.
This post is in honor of all the members of our church that didn’t realize this was their last weekend to worship.
Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old