It was 1991, and I was waiting for the bar, Britches and Bloomers (yes, that was the actual name), to close. The DJ and I had been flirting a lot for a few months, and that night, when his DJ duties were done, we were going to an after hours party at a club in Dallas. The Book of Love was going to be there. My date was cute, fun, and exciting.
The music went off, and the lights came up, my favorite blond bartender said, “Alright girls, get the f* out!” We walked out of this small dance bar with about 40 other people. The next thing I remember is a white pick-up truck with men crammed into the back came screeching up to the front door. They were screaming and cursing us in English and Spanish. They all seemed to have guns and shot up into the air a couple of times. I remember shoving my date down in between two cars and trying to push us as far under the car as we could get.
The gunslingers never did come over to where we were, but the hair was standing up on the back of my neck where I thought a muzzle would be placed if they did.
I heard other guys from the bar yelling in terror, and one in defiance. Saw one of the regulars take off down the street with another man from the truck chasing him.
The pursuer eventually stopped and turned around laughing. These violent men were all laughing, cursing, threatening, and terrorizing us. The police showed up very quickly, and the truckload of gun toting homophobes took off with one of the cruisers chasing after them. The police asked a few questions and interviewed a couple of our group at length. Deeply shaken, my date and I eventually got up and dusted ourselves off.
“Randy, let’s still go have fun. We cannot let these assholes ruin our evening. We won’t let them win.”
And so, we went to Dallas at 2:30 AM and listened to great music, dancing, lots of laughter, and plenty of kisses. While we numbed ourselves against the fear we always lived with, in our private way, we did not let the assholes win.
But, we also didn’t expect they would be punished for doing what they did. That type of stuff happened all the time in various ways and levels of intensity with little to no outcry from the public. We also understood that the police simply weren’t going to spend time worrying about the “homosexuals” down at the bar. When I was out in the ’80’s until I became a “born again” Christian in 1992, it was always dangerous going to and leaving gay clubs. You always went with your guard up and eyes open. There were a few local and national LGBTQ organizations, but they did not have the influence to change the systemic anti-gay bigotry in the areas I lived in. We lived our lives knowing that we weren’t safe, that we might lose our jobs, family, and family. We understood we could even lose our lives for simply being who we are and loving who we loved.
After becoming a Christian in May of 1992, I quickly adopted an ex-gay worldview and began removing myself from all things “gay.” For the next 23 years, I didn’t go to clubs or date men. I viewed the growing power of the local and national LGBTQ groups with suspicion and in some cases alarm. I didn’t listen to them and what they were saying. I was listening to the talking points my “side” came up with to get the “right and scriptural” view of what they were saying. In other words, while I have always condemned physical violence and advocated for respecting self-determination, I was far far away from knowing the truth and correctly understanding how the LGBTQ rights and equality movement grew into the major change (for good) agents they have become.
I came back out in January of 2015 not truly knowing or understanding anything about grassroots or national level LGBTQ groups. I thought I did, but I didn’t. After some time to catch my breath and get used to being “out” again, I began investigating how I could contribute to the health and welfare of our community. I first contacted the local HRC Orlando / Central Florida group in March of this year. They were incredibly kind and gracious. I began learning about how different the world had become for us since the first time I was out. I was overwhelmed with joy as the depth and complexity of our communities resources and leadership have grown since I had been out the first time.
Then on Friday, June 10, 2016, I shared my story for the first time as an out gay man at a local HRC Federal Club event here in Orlando. Then around 30+ hours later at 2 am Sunday morning June 12, 2016, 49 of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters were murdered at a gay nightclub that had just started shutting down for the night. They didn’t have a chance to pick themselves, and their loved ones up and go to an after-party like we did. My heart shatters every time I think of June 12th.
For all the good that has happened, LGBTQ people are still targeted by murderous hatred empowered by systemic cultural bigotry. This was true before the election. Now, with the election of Trump, many of us who have been around a while, see some alarming reminders of a darker time in our LGBTQ history. Our community has already been directly terrorized and threatened this year. Now we have what seems to be a new political reality that will continue to empower a systemic bigotry and strip away the safety, protections, and equality we have gained.
However, I do draw encouragement from knowing that today’s LGBTQ world is much stronger than ever before. In the aftermath of the Pulse tragedy, I was honored and completely humbled to watch local Orlando LGBTQ leaders swing into action firsthand. I saw tremendous resources surface. Incredible wisdom in action. I watched selfless service and abundant grace. I saw leaders at every level of government offer their support. I saw our brothers and sisters around the world cry out for love and justice.
That is a very different response than what would have happened in the ’80’s and early ’90’s. Our LGBTQ community is more mature, full of wisdom, full of experience and influence, and more powerful (in kind and humble ways) than ever before. Yes, our enemies are still out there, but instead of being numb and living in fear, we have found our voice. We have taken our place in society.
To quote a cute DJ I used to date, “… We won’t let them win.”
Hatred only has one path to a momentary victory; that path is to turn us into the very thing we hate. When we allow hatred into our hearts, we turn into the mirrored reflections of those we hate. That’s the only time hatred wins.
The real power to transform for the good of the individual and the common good truly comes from one source, and that source being love. Love destroys hate:
- Loving our opponents enough to engage them as equals, not better than or worse than, disarms hate.
- Selflessly sharing our lives openly with humility, dismantles hate.
- Sacrificially forgiving, humanizing our enemies, and abiding in grace, destroys hate.
- Overall, love always wins.
*You* are loved and I pray you are filled with and know you are surrounded by love. Together, we won’t let hatred win.
Being free is good,
[callout]If you appreciate these posts and want to support my efforts to affirm and encourage others through writing and other creative projects, click here to check out my Patreon page. Thank you![/callout]