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#WeAreOrlando – A Gay Geek Psychological Perspective

June 12, 2016. A date forever branded into my psyche. A gunman entered a well-known gay nightclub (Pulse) in Orlando, Florida and killed 49 people and injured just as many before being killed himself. Initially, I did not have a reaction to this other than I am a former Floridian, I have frequented this club, and 49 members of my community (the LGBT and Latino community) were killed. I didn’t know how to process this. As the stories emerged of the horrors of those hours and the lives of the victims of the shooting, my emotions surfaced and have been a driving force for me since then. A lot has been said about the shooter, the victims, gun control,etc. How does this affect each and everyone of us even if we weren’t directly impacted?

I feel my sense of safety and mortality have been shaken somewhat. Gay clubs are usually the one place I feel safest being myself and letting my hair down. Now, I don’t know if I will be scanning the dance floor in the future. I have concerns about attending the NYC Pride Parade in two weeks. Orlando is such a magical place for so many. It’s supposed to be one of the safest places to go. I can summarize this by saying, “It could have been me.”

They are currently saying that the shooter was gay after all (I will not mention his name on this post and appreciate that no one else does). As a psychologist, I cannot fathom the degree of internalized homophobia that caused this very unstable man to commit this atrocity. I remember as a teenager, as the AIDS epidemic hit and how I struggled with and fought against my own homosexuality. I too, had a significant degree of internalized homophobia. Again I make the statement, “It could have been me.”

I am thankful that I had the comic book community (as a teenager and onward), the 12 step community (in my 20’s), my spirit junkie community (presently) as well as my amazing family and friends that I had the ability to overcome my struggles without killing myself and/or others. Comic books and sci-fi were my escape from my reality for many years (and sometimes still are). Even though I did not always use the most adaptive coping strategies, I made it through a rather tumultuous period in my life. This is where the miracle happens. Finding the gratitude and the miracle in such a tragedy.

In the past few days, I have seen my heterosexual friends step up and show their loving support to what happen to my community. I have worked with clients this week who have vowed to overcome their fears and unhappiness because tomorrow is never promised and they want to live extraordinary lives. Lin Manuel Miranda gave an impassioned speech at the Tony Awards the evening after the shooting, reminding us that “Love is Love is Love is Love.” Lady Gaga said it perfectly when, in her speech to the LGBT community, she stated, “This is a crime against humanity.”

Despite the tears, fears, grief and sadness over what has occurred, I have made some life choices (and I am encouraging you all to do the same in your own capacity). I am choosing to see the miracles. I am choosing to be more grateful. I am choosing to walk through my fears because tomorrow is never promised. I also choose to continue my mission of delivering the best possible mental health care to the LGBT community as well as continuing to raise awareness of LGBT issues in the comic book/sci-fi community.

I close by listing the names of the 49 victims. I did not know any of them but they were my brothers and sisters who’s light was turned off before their time. I honor your lives and I wish that you all Rest in Paradise.

Amanda Alvear, 25

Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26

Rodolfo Ayala Ayala, 33

Antonio Davon Brown, 29

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29

Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28

Juan Chavez Martinez, 25

Luis Daniel Conde, 39

Cory James Connell, 21

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32

Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25

Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22

Paul Terrell Henry, 41

Frank Hernandez, 27

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30

Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30

Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25

Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25

Kimberly Morris, 37

Akyra Monet Murray, 18

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20

Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25

Eric Ivan Ortiz Rivera, 36

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 31

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35

Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25

Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez, 27

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35

Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24

Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33

Martin Benitez Torres, 33

Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37

Luis S. Vielma, 22

Franky Jimmy De Jesus Velazquez, 50

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31

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