Hello bibliophiles, my name is Ren and I’ll be taking over Supposed Crimes’ blog posts! A little about me - I recently graduated college with a degree in dramaturgy, I enjoy cosplaying in my free time, and I’ve been an ardent reader ever since I was a kid. I’m excited to write for Supposed Crimes and connect more with the LGBTQIA+/queer community!
(Content warning: the following post is going to discuss the Pulse Nightclub shooting)
I don’t mean for my first post on this blog to be a downer, but in just a couple of days we will come upon an important day of remembrance for the LGBTQIA+ community: it was on June 12th, in the early hours of the morning nearly six years ago, that we lost 49 souls in the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida. I was in high school at the time, having just finished my sophomore year, living only two hours away from Orlando. A baby, I know. But I would be lying if I said that Pulse didn’t shake me and those around me to our cores. The weeks after Pulse was the first time I became acutely aware of my surroundings and how I am perceived by others. What certain looks from strangers in a store could mean. Growing up queer in the south, I’ve always been aware of possible dangers, but after Pulse those fears were really brought to the forefront of my mind.
That same evening, the 70th annual Tony Awards for Broadway was held. The somber and quiet atmosphere of the award show was unlike any in the past, with the theatre community reeling from this particular loss of life. Nearly every attendee wore a small silver ribbon in solidarity with the community, and the shooting was addressed multiple times throughout the night. I will never forget the cast of Hamilton’s performance of the song “The World Turned Upside Down,” in which they made the call to forgo the use of prop muskets during the number. Watching the actors dance with hands that were empty of weaponry shared a message so incredibly loud that it still gives me chills to this day. The words that writer and artist Lin-Manuel Miranda spoke upon winning his first Tony, voice cracking as he shared his acceptance speech in the form of a sonnet, have stuck with me all these years: “And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love; cannot be killed or swept aside. Now fill the world with music, love, and pride.” And that’s the beauty of what we do as storytellers and readers. It is through the act of storytelling, whether you are telling the story or diving into the world of it, that we are able to stand up to hatred and intolerance, to dream of better worlds and change the one we live in now. To fill it with more love and pride.
A year after the shooting I visited the Pulse memorial. This was when the memorial was community-made, grown from the tributes that every visitor had left behind (it has since become a more official memorial, which you can learn about here). That experience was like no other. All around the fenced perimeter of the building were flowers, teddy bears, photos, notes of remembrance and mourning, letters of hope and persistence, art from visitors all over the world, and above all else the overwhelming sense of community and pride. As I walked around the building, reading the words written by strangers and taking in the beautiful art, I felt both sorrow for the sheer loss of life and love for my community. I will never forget the 49 people who lost their lives in a place that was supposed to be safe for them, for us. When I tell stories, when I share the stories that others have created, it will always be for the purpose of filling the world with more love and pride.
Here are some more photos I captured at the memorial when I visited in 2017.