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This Week’s Most Important And Uplifting Writing On Orlando

by john russell June 18, 2016


For many of us, this weekend particular weekend comes as more of a relief than usual. It holds the promise of an end to what has been an extremely grim week and the possibility of beginning to heal. We will go out to gay bars and clubs to boldly, unapologetically, defiantly celebrate our community, to be among our fellow LGBTQ citizens.

But even as we take the first steps toward returning to some sense of normalcy, it’s worth taking the time to look back at some of the moving and thought provoking writing that was published this week about the tangled intersection of issues surrounding the massacre at Pulse nightclub.

In “What the Orlando Nightclub Pulse Meant to Me As a Queer Teen,” Morgan Cohn paints a vivid, honest picture of the club that’s on everyone’s mind. “This week, there are millions of people who have never been to Pulse talking about the place,” Cohn writes. “A lot of people who have never been to Pulse talk about it as a sanctuary and a haven for the LGBTQ community — a place of celebration and pride. Pulse was all of those things, and I hope it still will be, but it was also a place that was sweaty and shirtless, where people in their underwear sold jello shots, where we made mistakes, where we learned from them.”

Meanwhile, in the New Yorker gay rights advocate Richard Socarides compares the the Orlando club to Stonewall and the Upstairs Lounge: “Pulse, named in honor of a man who died from H.I.V.-aids, will now be remembered as the site of the worst mass shooting in American history and perhaps the worst terrorist attack in the U.S. since 9/11, but it could also—not today or tomorrow, as we mourn, but soon—become a rallying cry for another movement against hate.”

Esquire’s Dave Holmes ponders the assertion by the shooter’s father that he was enraged by the sight of two men kissing in public and come to a chilling conclusion about the simmering, ever-present terror we endure just to be out in public: “Terrorism toward LGBT people is a redundancy.”

Reporting on the massive rally outside the Stonewall Inn in New York on Monday night, New Yorker staff writer Daniel Wegener marvels “at the thousands gathered in the streets surrounding Christopher Park … at the crowd’s immensity and diversity, and also at its calm, its self-possession.” Nick Jonas notwithstanding.

Village Voice associate editor Raillan Brooks parses the “Double Jeopardy” of being queer and Muslim in the aftermath of the Pulse massacre: “The day after the shooting, already sick of the ooga-booga headlines, I saw a tweet from Chicago-based shock jock Joe Walsh — ‘Islam hates #LGBT. Muslims hate gays. If you are gay, Islam wants you dead.’ — and I knew I was about to out myself one more time: ‘As a gay muslim,’ I responded, ‘I very much beg to differ.’”

“I’m a son of immigrants, and a gay man who grew up in Orlando in the ’80s and ’90s. My earliest visits to gay clubs in the city were clandestine operations, and let me tell you, it is difficult to be undercover-gay while dressing appropriately for a night out with the boys,” writes Matt Thompson in his piece at in which he imagines the intersection of ethnic identity and homophobia that may have kept some of the Orlando victims in the closet until it was too late. “I can’t stop thinking about the possibility that someone like us was hurt or murdered at Pulse on Sunday morning, outed in the very worst way, in a phone call every family dreads.”

And with questions about the shooter’s sexuality further complicating the narrative around this tragedy, New York Magazine’s Science of Us blog tackles “The Myth of the Violent, Self-Hating Gay Homophobe.

And finally, Richard Kim’s essay at reveals why gay clubs are so important to o many of us: “That was my first lesson that gay bars are more than just licensed establishments where homosexuals pay to drink. Gay bars are therapy for people who can’t afford therapy; temples for people who lost their religion, or whose religion lost them; vacations for people who can’t go on vacation; homes for folk without families; sanctuaries against aggression. They take sound and fabric and flesh from the ordinary world, and under cover of darkness and the influence of alcohol or drugs, transform it all into something that scrapes up against utopia.”

john russell
john russell


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