“Orlando Gunman Attacks Gay Nightclub, Leaving 50 Dead” was the headline I read on June 12, 2016, as a young trans girl about to embark on my coming out journey. In that very moment, I could have done what many young queer and trans people would have. I could have hidden deeper in the so-called “closet,” the metaphor used for the burden of shame we are put under socially, culturally, and politically. But I didn’t.
That was the moment I realized how powerful my existence is. That was the moment I realized the vigorous act of eradicating that burden of shame. Later that year, I showed up to my first queer prom in a twenty-five dollar dress my friends helped me pick out. I did this to eradicate that burden. I did it in the name of resilience. And I did it because the violence LGBTQ people experience only propels me to be louder and prouder.
We are not a community of hate; we condemn all aspects of it. Even though menacing weapons have been pointed at our heads in spaces that were supposed to be our sanctuaries, we stood in fortitude with our voices and love. The alternate route was an option: we could have reacted in anger, but we didn’t. Instead, the Pulse shooting pulled together the diverse and radiant ambiance of our community in a way that has made us immensely stronger. In that way, this event has made us feel love in its truest form, and the Pulse shooting is now one of the reasons I hold everyone in the LGBTQ+ community so close to me today.
Now, on the anniversary of the Pulse shooting, we must remember those who lost their lives and commit to continually come out during Pride month to unapologetically claim space for our authenticity. My being a fierce activist today is the reverberation of Marsha P. Johnson’s spirit and the lives that we lost during the Pulse shooting. Although many people still find it invasive when we transcend oppressive cultural barriers, we must still declare, We are here. We are queer. And no threat or attack will put us back into a state of fear.