In the early hours of Sunday morning in Orlando, Florida, one man made the decision to take up arms and strip the world of 49 LGBT lives, most of them LGBT people of colour.
Since the time of the events at Pulse nightclub's Latin Night, news reports have been flooding out as Florida, America, and the rest of the world scrambles to find an explanation for why yet another senseless act of violence has occurred in the so-called 'Land of the Free'.
The blame game was quick to begin, predictably and tastelessly with Donald Trump who decided to take a moment to use the deaths of people in our community to slap himself on the back and promote Islamophobia:
Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2016
Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn't he should immediately resign in disgrace!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2016
News coverage was heavily focused on gunman Omar Mateen's possible ISIS links, and the fact that he had been previously investigated by the FBI for ties with terrorism.
But, beneath the fear-mongering, there were many layers to the story. Mateen's ex-wife released a statement that he was abusive on multiple occasions, and his father was quoted saying that Mateen became visibly angry after witnessing two men kissing in Miami last month. With reports of his rage inducing homophobic tendencies, absolutely no one in the LGBT community was surprised when today the Guardian confirmed that Mateen was a semi-regular at Pulse and had a history of using gay dating apps. Putting Mateen's ancestry and religion aside, you instead have the story of an angry, unstable domestic abuser, who was likely a closeted gay suffering from intense self-loathing. ISIS provided a convenient cover his actions, but this was a calculated attack on the LGBT community. This wasn't an attack on America. This was a hate crime dressed up as a terrorist attack.
Yet, regardless of why this happened, Orlando, and the LGBT community at large is now faced with the names and faces of 49 beautiful individuals between the ages of 18 and 50, who on Saturday night decided to go out and enjoy their weekend in a safe space, only to have their lives ripped away by one man's anger and hatred at the world, at them, or simply at himself - conveniently assisted by gun legislation that somehow classes an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon as something that an individual in a country not currently undergoing civil war requires for self-defense.
The simple coverage of these facts brings me, quite honestly, to tears.
49 human beings, majority under the age of thirty, gone in the blink of an eye.
The worst part of it all? They thought they were safe.
The brother of Amanda Alvear, a 25-year-old victim, told the Orlando Sentinel that she frequented gay and lesbian clubs because they were fun places, and she felt safe to be herself.
Amanda's sentiments can be echoed for gay establishments all over the world. No matter where you live, the LGBT community is a family and the local gay bar or club is the pillar of that community. It is the church, the home. Places such as Pulse are built on on a foundation of love, laughter, acceptance, freedom of expression, and yes, a bit of dancing. Okay, a lot of dancing.
When you spend much of your life, even now, in fear - fear of violence, fear of judgement, fear of any number of unseen repercussions stemming from the fact that someone dislikes or even hates gay people, or trans people, or lesbians, or bisexuals and decides to make them a target of that hatred in any way they can - the ability to walk into a space where you will be welcomed, embraced and accepted as your whole self is a form of grace, of enlightenment, of peace.
They are, as Jeramey Kraatz so aptly put it: sanctuaries.
If you can't wrap your head around a bar or club as a sanctuary, you've probably never been afraid to hold someone's hand in public.— Jeramey Kraatz (@jerameykraatz) June 12, 2016
Those few hours at a club over the course of a weekend can enable people to get through the daylight hours of the following week, when perhaps they once again feel the pressure to hide, to be more or less masculine, to be more or less feminine, to be less gay, or less trans.
Our spaces are sacred to us.
To the LGBT community of Orlando, Pulse was no doubt sacred ground.
It's times like these, amidst people applauding the slaughter of the young and innocent because they are gay that we could be afraid.
We could lock-down, pull back, and become invisible. We could hide from the monsters under our beds, and the ones in our dark alley's.
And from that fear we could get angry, lash out and lay blame. It's times like these that we could listen to the fear-mongering, and in moments of terror believe that entire religions, or groups of people deserve to be held responsible for the deaths of our own.
And have we?
Because we're here, we're queer, and we won't live in fear.
Reactions to the shootings among LGBT communities across the globe have been swift, but rather than fueled by a desire to hate, and pass the blame to other communities in danger of persecution, the message has been one of support, solidarity, and above all else: love.
In London, DIVA Magazine reported that hundreds gathered Soho on Monday night, proudly wearing their Pride colors and holding up banners on Old Compton Street with messages such as "love will win," "Islamophobia is not the answer" and "Solidarity with LGBT Orlando. Fight all hate."
Huffpost Japan reports that in Tokyo, a candlelit march was held in a country which continues to fight for LGBT visibility and equality:
In Auckland, New Zealand, the Skytower was lit up in rainbow colours as many attended vigils across the city:
And in Toronto thousands gathered at Barbara Hall Park on Sunday:
With Pride Toronto executive director Mathieu Chantelois stating today that scheduled events for Toronto's first Pride Month will continue as planned: "We will dance in the streets and we will dance in the clubs," Chantelois said. "We're planning to go as big as we can go," CBC Toronto reported.
These were merely a handful of the cities across the world who came out to show their support for the victims, their families, and the LGBT community at large.
As I write this, the hashtag #GaysBreakTheInternet is trending worldwide and giving a big fuck-you to homophobes everywhere who dared to come out in support of this massacre:
Right now I find it hard not imagine those 49 individuals, to not wonder what they were like, what their dreams were, and how many loved ones they left behind to grieve for them. I am filled with righteous fury, and such sadness that in the middle of Pride Month, at a time when it seemed the LGBT community was making so much progress, there are still countless individuals out there who still wish us harm simply because of the people we are and the people we love.
This has been a sharp reminder of our vulnerability in the world, even today.
However, it has also been a reminder about how united and strong the global LGBT community truly is. Our collective grief brought with it a response that the community can be proud of, one not fueled by hatred, or attacks on other vulnerable communities but one fueled by pride: pride for who we are.
And for now, our thoughts are with those still fighting for their lives, and with those already lost:
Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old
Love will always win.
In the coming days, we need to continue to believe that.