LAST MONTH’S VIOLENT, hate-filled attacks on members of our community were heinous and heart-wrenching. They are people who were going about their lives when their worlds suddenly changed: a shadow went from being a contrast between levels of light to an assailant waiting to strike; walking home, a time for thoughtful introspection, became a feared trek that involved mortal peril; and strangers once approached as future friends became attackers to be feared and avoided. My thoughts and prayers continue to go out to those three men, wishing not only for their speedy recoveries from their physical wounds but also that their spirits and their beliefs in the beauty and kindness of their fellow humans heals too.
As a gay man who loves the Columbus queer community deeply and a clinical mental health counselor, I write this column wearing two hats: one as a person who lives in the Short North and goes out with my friends and loved ones into the city that is my home, and one as a person who has sat with people struggling with and fighting to recover from trauma. It is a brave and bold journey that these men are embarking on, the journey of recovery, one that they did not ask for, but nevertheless is set before them.
That is a difficult road to watch loved ones travel. We wish we could take their place, take their pain, or seek retribution on those who have hurt them, but we cannot. Instead, we find ourselves standing beside them, ready to catch them should the stumble, hold them in their sorrow, and encourage them as they move forward. There can be frustration in standing next to them, feelings of powerlessness and discouragement in not being able to do more, but standing in support is ultimately all that we can do. The journey of healing is theirs, not ours, as tough as that is to accept.
I write this column to do my best to amplify the stories of our community, not only to celebrate our pride but also recognize and give record to the pain-filled journeys we must take to get to the pride-filled, joyous moments in life. It’s easy to be there for others in our community during celebrations. It can be much harder to be there when the celebration is over, or worse, when the celebration is interrupted or redirected by acts of violence. That is not the case for our community, and this is one of the reasons I love it so dearly.
ON FRIDAYS, WE WEAR PINK was an outpouring of uninhibited and unrepentant love for the survivors of hate in our Columbus queer community. It was one of those rare and exquisite moments where collectively THOUSANDS (more than 6,700) of people had the collective choice to go about their lives and ignore all that had happened the power or take a stand to support these survivors in our community; and we chose to stand. We still stand.
When history turns its gaze back on Columbus, Ohio circa 2013, it will see the violence that took place in our streets. But more importantly it will see an LGBTQ community, shining like a beacon of pink hope and love that stood up in love and support and furthered the fight to end violence against all in our city.