On Sunday, Calvin Goings woke up at around 7 a.m. to go for a run before going to church.
As he was getting ready, he went through his phone, looking at his newsfeeds and social media. And that was when he learned about the shooting in Orlando, Fla. that killed 49 people and injured 53 more at Pulse, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) nightclub. This was the most updated information at the Reporter’s deadline.
Goings, horrified by the news that was unfolding, woke his partner up to tell him what had happened.
“We both were just shocked,” said Goings, who lives in the greater Seattle area and contributes business columns to the Reporter.
COMING TOGETHER AS A COMMUNITY
Later that morning, the couple went to church because Goings said it was important for them to be with friends and to begin the process of understanding what had happened and begin the process of grieving.
“My heart aches for the family and friends who lost loved ones,” he said.
Later that evening, Goings and his partner, along with some other friends, attended the vigil at Cal Anderson Park in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood to honor the victims of the Orlando shooting. And just as it was important to go to church Sunday morning, Goings said it was vital for them to attend the vigil and gather and wrap their collective arms around the LGBT community.
As an active member of the area’s LGBT community, the tragedy hits close to home for Goings. The events of Sunday morning’s massacre hit even closer for him as at the same time as the shooting, he, his partner and other friends were out on Capitol Hill, at an LGBT club. The group also attended the vigil together.
Goings said the outpouring of support and love the LGBT community has received in light of the tragedy from each other and from their allies has been heartwarming.
THE WORK IS NOT DONE
For Ben Crowther, the fact that the events in Orlando happened during LGBT Pride Month, at an LGBT club when hundreds of people would be in attendance, makes it clear in his mind that the community was specifically targeted — something he said some elected officials have refused to acknowledge.
Crowther is chair of PFLAG Bellevue/Eastside, which provides support, education and advocacy for the LGBT community, their families, friends and allies. PFLAG Bellevue/Eastside holds meetings from 7-9 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month at First United Methodist Church at 1934 108th Ave. N.E. in Bellevue. This month’s meeting was last night. Meetings are broken into two parts: an hour of support circles in which attendees share experiences with the group and an educational hour often featuring a speaker on various topics ranging from access to facilities, to health, to adoption.
Crowther, who now lives in downtown Seattle but was born and raised in Issaquah, has attended PFLAG meetings since he was a junior in high school. When he first learned what had happened in Orlando, he felt a few different emotions.
“I was angry. I was sad and I was terrified,” he said.
For LGBT people, Crowther said, there is always that concern for safety in the back of their minds. He said to be out and proud in public is still a brave political action as there is still a lot of homegrown homophobia out there.
“Washington is no exception…we have homophobia here at home,” he said, pointing out that there is an initiative people are trying to get on the November ballot that would discriminate against transgender people.
Crowther even felt it on Sunday as he attended the vigil at Cal Anderson Park — which was named for Washington’s first openly gay legislator — walking hand in hand with his husband. He said while it was cathartic to mourn collectively as a community and it was profoundly comforting, there was also a feeling of fear: Here they were, a large group of LGBT individuals in an LGBT space, gathering so soon following such a horrific massacre of members of their community.
“That’s the reality we live in,” Crowther said.
Sunday’s shooting is a clear reminder, Crowther said, that there is still work to do.
AN EVIL ACT
Karin Duvall, a Redmond resident who sits on the board of PFLAG Bellevue/Eastside, was heartsick, crushingly sad and appalled when she learned about the events in Orlando.
“Everyone is wounded by this evil act,” she said.
Duvall was also angry, describing the shooting as evil worshiping at the altar of the “other.”
“That just has to stop,” she said, adding that the victims were not “other,” they were kids, friends and members of families.
While Duvall was in Bellingham on Sunday and unable to attend the vigil in Seattle, she wished she had as it is important to be together in times of tragedy.
Despite the tragedy, Crowther said the LGBT community will continue to thrive. He said they have come together as a community in the face of many hardships such as the HIV/AIDS crisis, hate crimes and anti-LGBT legislation. They have decades of experience of watching each others’ backs, Crowther said, adding that this is exactly what LGBT Pride Month stands for.
“Pride has always been an act of resilience on the part of our community and this year is no exception,” he said.
Crowther said Pride came about as a response to the Stonewall riots that occurred on June 28, 1969 in New York. At the time, the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, was continually targeted and raided by the police. The riots started after bar patrons finally stood up for themselves.
The first Pride parade in New York, Crowther said, was held on the last Sunday in June the following year to celebrate the event. It has since become an annual event and has spread throughout the country. Seattle and San Francisco are the only other two cities that hold their Pride parades on the last Sunday of June to coincide with New York’s, Crowther said.
“We fight on and we have pride in who we are,” he said. “(Tragedy) has never stopped us and it never will.”
For further coverage of local response to the Orlando attack, click here.