The tragic and senseless mass shooting in Orlando in June has had a personal impact on me as a gay man, which has been difficult to process, as it no doubt has for others.
Since then, attacks in France, Bangladesh, Turkey, Iraq, and most recently the police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge, have compounded emotions on an already-heavy heart. It’s simply hard to understand how anyone can justify acts of violence against innocent people.
I have lived in Idaho for 35 of my 49 years, and came out as gay when I was 26. From growing up in rural Caldwell in the 1980s to sharing the last 20 years of my life with my husband Jim in Boise—Idaho is home.
Jim and I first met at a gay bar in Boise—a place of safety and acceptance, much like Pulse in Orlando has been to the LGBTQ community there. It’s hard not to think that the same attack could have happened here. We or any number of our friends could have been those victims, killed by someone with a selfish disregard for life—and, in this case, of LGBTQ people. We feel hurt and angry, and we mourn for all who were lost.
But, even amidst this grief, I still feel hope.
Since the Orlando shootings, I have received calls, emails, in-person visits from friends—all offering their support, love, and compassion. One friend called me the morning after the shootings, wanting to know if I was home because he needed to see and hug me. Later that day, a Boise city councilwoman saw me at a coffee shop and spontaneously hugged me. Another friend emailed me a couple of days later to say she was checking in with all her LGBTQ friends just to make sure they were OK.
These acts of simple and beautiful human kindness—this sense of caring for each other in these times of crisis and personal pain—is how we move on and prevail, and gives us the strength to fight on another day.
My work at Pride Foundation as a community organizer in Idaho over the last five years has taught and shown me much, but what I think I’ve learned most is that the LGBTQ people I’ve met are resilient, and we have many, many allies across the state and region who are here for us.
We are not alone.
That knowledge has re-energized and empowered me to hold my head high and move forward. I know that we will persevere. I see it with the donors, volunteers, scholars, and grantees I have the privilege to interact with every day, witnessing firsthand their commitment to Pride Foundation and to helping advance LGBTQ equality.
Working alongside this organization’s tremendous staff and board, I also know that Pride Foundation is committed more than ever to the goals outlined in our mission and vision statements: ensuring that one day we will live in a world in which all LGBTQ youth, adults, and families enjoy the freedom to live their lives safely, openly, and genuinely.
Steve Martin is the regional development organizer in Idaho. Email Steve.