Towards evening on November 4, 2008, I left headquarters on Market Street in the Castro in San Francisco with my fellow No On Prop 8 campaign volunteers and headed to the election night gathering downtown at the Saint Francis Hotel. On the trolley car on the way down, a group of kids were staring at us and leering at our “No On Prop 8” shirts and signs, and they began to taunt us. One of them even had a knife. I felt targeted, threatened, vulnerable, even foolish, but most of all obvious and different. And when all the votes came in later that night it was confirmed that California voters had passed Prop 8, which banned marriage in California for people like me.
That was a very long and dark night.
But it was nothing compared to the horror endured in Orlando yesterday by hundreds of LGBT friends and allies at The Pulse nightclub, which left 49 dead, 50 injured, their families and friends bereft, and a nation in mourning.
I have had many conversations at SAP yesterday and today, and many have wondered my thoughts on SAP’s participation in the SF Pride Parade. It’s not easy to gather these thoughts and much is still unclear about this atrocity. The Pulse has been referred to as a sanctuary for LGBT folks – a place they can go to celebrate and be themselves, without fear. That’s one of the many things that makes this attack particularly devastating. And as the hours and days unfold after Orlando and we learn the names of the dead, we do whatever we can to honor their memories, and join the countless good humans trying somehow to help.
But this much remains clear: We will not go back into the closet. We will still have our sanctuaries. And – yes – we at SAP and beyond will still march in Pride parades all around the world, now more than ever.
Because the truth is, I didn’t just feel vulnerable in the trolley car going down Market Street in San Francisco the night of Prop 8. We are not only vulnerable in our sanctuaries, in our huge gatherings, and often in our own homes. Despite the many, many gains since then – I am now legally married, my wife and I have a beautiful daughter that lights our lives, I have work at a company that supports us all in being exactly who we are, and everyone in the country can now legally marry the one they love – despite all this, the fact is I still feel vulnerable and different all the time. But as more of the country grows to feel free to be themselves whoever they are, I know a lot more about what good company I’m in, and I know that our differences are our most precious human traits. It is the hardest, best work ever to celebrate those differences together.
I’m obviously thinking a lot about those post-Prop-8 days since yesterday in Orlando and I truly apologize that the comparison is woefully inadequate and incomplete. However, just as dawn eventually came after that long night in November 2008, I know that brightness will shine more than ever moving forward on Orlando and a nation, a world, of LGBT people and allies and people of all kinds who are walking together stronger. This is what defines us: We are vulnerable and we are different and we are human and we take care of one another, but we are far far from alone. So many good people light our paths.