Dear Orlando: An Army of Lovers Will Never Be Defeated

"I am remembering how every dance, kiss, and gaze broke the shackles of society’s shame."

Today, I am heartsick over an open fire massacre in Orlando, Florida, a hate crime against my kind.

Quietly, I am paying my respects to 49 LBGTTIQQ2S people murdered in your nightclub yesterday, and the 53 injured. I am remembering the first time I walked into Crews & Tangos, a gay bar downtown Toronto, and how I found a strange homecoming amongst the lovers, fags, queens, divas, dykes, transexuals, intersex, bisexuals, two spirits, transgender, and others. I am remembering how the space became an arc of our own, and every song a sea.

I am remembering a decade of late nights in gay bars all over the world –  too many champagne flutes at legendary Queen in Paris, all those wild hours at Arena Sala Marde in Barcelona, every single Saturday night in the village, a few sexy, sweaty all-nighters at Le Drugstore in Montreal, every pint drained at Vancouver’s Fountainhead, seasons of dancing, singing, and readings at The Company House in Halifax, and even a few stolen kisses at Velvet Nightclub above Water Street in St. John’s. I am remembering how every bar felt like a home, a place to welcome my queer femme hips, heart, and Mi’kmaq spirit.

I am remembering the arms of all my lovers, their sly moves, and offers to pay cover. How we found ourselves under disco balls, amongst drag queens, surrounded by loud music, and hot lights. I am remembering how every dance, kiss, and gaze broke the shackles of society’s shame. I am remembering how we fell hard for each other under the gay bar’s spell. I am remembering my Halifax queer family, and all the times we gathered to create a safe harbour.

I am remembering sparklers I’ve met smoking outside gay bars, f*cking in bathrooms, breaking up on the dance-floor. I am remembering how for a small moment, we shared a sacred fire, a knowing. I am remembering the spirits of our brave hearts, wild cards, and quiet warriors. I am remembering what it feels like to be seen, pay witness, and mirror something unknown to others.

Oh Orlando, I don’t know what else to say, but you’ve got to keep loving. Today, I am remembering the sacred love, and infinite horizon of queerness. I am remembering the bars, and plaque beside Will Munro’s tree in Trinity Bellwoods, chanting through the rain, “An army of lovers will never be defeated.”

Yours, in deep solidarity,

Shannon

Tonight in St. John’s, we’ll gather at City Hall 7-10 PM for a Candlelight Vigil in your honour.

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