I grew up being bullied. Being a smart, creative, weird kid in the 90’s meant I endured almost daily microaggressions. I learned to keep my truest self hidden and channeled all my energy into getting accepted to a distant college where I wouldn’t know anyone. There, I met the fellow geeks and creatives who became my found family…and I found myself along the way.
The overlap between the geek and queer communities is so large that I found myself part of the latter almost by default. I immediately felt comfortable in those spaces. We all grew up with bullying, after all. We all struggled with the adults around us denying our reality. We all learned how to keep secrets. After three years of growing into myself, I finally realized there was a reason I felt instant kinship with my LGBTQ+ friends, and I started creeping out of the closet. My friends were wonderfully supportive every step of the way.
As a cis woman with a partner who was assigned male at birth, I didn’t have to come out in the way my friends did. I could marry my partner. I could see him in the hospital, buy a house together, and kiss him in public without fear. I never revealed my identity to my coworkers. Letting them assume I was straight was easier. But over the years, my partner and I began to explore our queer identities more often and more visibly. He began identifying as genderfluid. I became a regular at our local gay bar. After a life-changing sabbatical in 2021, spending time in the queer community became part of my essential self-care. In the liberal bubble where we live, we felt pretty safe.
And then Club Q happened.
I’ve never been to Club Q, but it sounds much like my own beloved gay bar, dV8, with its drag shows and karaoke nights and tight-knit staff. I go to dV8 to feel the love and support of my community. I’m friends with two of the owners. I’ve helped them close up the bar at night. Fewer than a hundred miles separate dV8 and Club Q. I kept thinking, that could have been me. That could have been my friends.
My city’s very own mass shooting last year didn’t feel personal. That shooter killed people simply because they were there. The Club Q shooter targeted people because of who they were, in a space where they should have been safe. Homophobic bigots aren’t content to sequester us in the closet; they want to throw open the closet door and exterminate us.
For the first time, I am truly scared for myself and my partner. We could continue to pass as straight. We could stop going to LGBTQ+ events and take down our pride flag…but most of our friends can’t hide. And I’d rather stand with them and proclaim my own Sapphic nature, even if it gets me killed.
This is how I see you, my beloved queer family – as blazing fires that keep burning no matter what the world throws at you. We are resilient. We are creative, and no matter how many of us they take, our spirit cannot be destroyed.