Words from our very own, Graeme Schulz
I feel hollow.
Last night I received a phone call from a friend who attended the LA protests and the sound of his voice keeps ringing in my ear. “But we were peaceful”, he said. Those words carved the picture of shock on his face, even though I couldn’t see it. I could just hear it. His description of the 6 mile walk played a hazy film of tear gas filled with frames zipping back and forth to capture the shot of rubber bullets and the welling sound of voices pleading for change. He and our friends stoically played the part of marching advocates and raised their hands surrendering their movement to the line of defense, but not their pledge to fight for their black brothers and sisters. He drove home wearing shame for the fear he swallowed. He traveled in silence, deafened by the sounds of the protest. He picked up the phone to call me for a moment of peaceful reflection. After more than 10 years of friendship I know how to talk him off a cliff, but there was nothing to fill the void of his despair for George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castle, Sandra Bland…
His voice was hollow.
I feel Pride.
Waking up to a month dedicated to the world-wide celebration of LGBTQ+ people is bittersweet. The Pride I feel isn’t exactly the same as I felt in years passed. The feeling of love that covers our community like a blanket will have to be woven at a distance. The teeth-y smiles of our LGBTQ+ friends and allies will have to be shared on the internet. The tireless dancing to Lady Gaga and all the celebratory anthems will be danced carelessly in our rooms. After the phone call I received Saturday night, I’ve been grappling with what it means to celebrate Pride in times like these. It seems oddly familiar how it even began in 1969. This year, Pride is going to be different. Not just because of COVID or because we can’t decorate the streets with our message of love and acceptance, but because there is a higher calling.
We need Pride.
Worlds are colliding right now and there is no doubt that our country is bleeding despair. It seems in a time of uncertainty and perpetual stillness, we crave answers but only receive more questions: How did we let it get this far? When will our country be safe again? What else do we need to do? It’s easy to say, “I don’t know”. However, I assure you that you do. The answer may not look the same to everyone, but your voice can echo no matter how you use it. As we navigate our way through this collision of events by honoring the name of George Floyd and the unforgotten black lives and carefully practicing social distancing, there is now an opportunity to use Pride as a platform to amplify the voice of hope.
As I reflect on our current events, I think of the Stonewall Riots. I think of how a brick defined a moment in history and paved the way for the LGBTQ+ community to progress to moments like the legalization of gay marriage in 2015. I can’t help but wonder if someone received the same phone call I did from a friend who was desperate for change and scared of what was to come. I wonder if they had a friend like me who did their best to light a flame that flickered at the end of the tunnel. I hope they did—because that would mean we’re on our way to change just like before. I may feel hollow, but I will fill that space with education. I feel Pride, but I won’t let it distract me from those who need to be seen. Let yourself be vulnerable and open to the challenge of celebrating love and tolerance. On June 21st, celebrate black fathers, gay fathers, and all fathers. Today, look someone in the eyes and tell them you accept them. From now on, put yourself in other people’s shoes and let your black brothers and sisters know you see them. This month, let’s not just pick love—let’s pick hope.