I was in Victoria’s Butchart Gardens Sunday, when I got the news of the attack on the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Michael Platt from the Calgary Sun was calling and looking for a comment from the Calgary Gay History Project: connecting the massacre to so many crimes we have already faced in the LGBTQ community.
The contrast was intense. So many pretty flowers in such a bucolic setting combined with the grim, terrible news of a large tragedy unfolding. After the call, my husband and I just sat there on a bench for a few minutes in silence.
To be honest, I am still processing the news. At times sad, at times defiant, I am particularly piqued by the notion that the sight of two men kissing set the murderous rampage in motion.
However I am heartened to see the strong reaction from the LGBTQ community as well as the support from our allies. Nolan Hill, who volunteers for the history project, was quick to help organize a well-attended vigil at Olympic Plaza on Sunday evening. Steve Gin & Lisa Murphy Lamb spearheaded an artistic response: KISS for Orlando through Loft 112. The City of Calgary lit the Langevin Bridge and Calgary Tower in pride colours.
Calgary Outlink, our city’s LGBTQ community hub, with a large coalition of partners, are hosting a memorial service on Wednesday, June 22nd in the Jack Singer Concert Hall Lobby at Arts Commons. The We are Orlando – YYC Memorial begins at 6 PM and will be a remembrance of all of the victims of Orlando.
This memorial is an opportunity for our city to grieve collectively for the lives taken in Orlando. This service is not based on any particular faith. Followers of any faith, or those who do not follow any faith – everyone – is welcome to attend.
My hope is that the Orlando shooting will have a transformative effect on society, shining the spotlight on homophobia and transphobia, wherever it occurs – in our city, in our country, in the USA and in the 70+ countries where homosexuality is illegal and/or carries the death penalty). I also encourage Calgarians to think about how they can support the LGBTQ organizations and services we have here in our city, so that we can maintain and advance our hard-fought human rights victories, as well as foster trust and understanding in the hearts and minds of others.