Sunday, June 12, 2016
This the text from a speech I wrote for tonight's vigil in Portland, Maine, as the spokesperson for EqualityMaine, in response to the tragedy in Orlando.
Hello, my name is Gia Drew, and I’m honored to work as program director at EqualityMaine, and humbled to work on behalf of all of you, Maine’s LGBT community.
I’m also a very proud bisexual transgender woman!
As many of you know, EqualityMaine has been working to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Mainers for 32 years. We are committed to ensuring every member of our community feels safe and welcome in every aspect of their lives, at every age and wherever they may be in this beautiful state.
This morning I awoke with the promise of enjoying this spring day at home, possibly going for a bike ride, and even getting my hands a little dirty in my garden. That all changed when I learned of the shooting at Pulse in Orlando. I immediately texted my girlfriend in Boston. “hope you are you okay - thinking of you - hug me”
She had heard the news too. “Wish we were together - I’m angry more than anything”
I knew what she meant, I was angry too. “Go, go, get out and breathe the air.”
“I love you”
“I love you too”
25 years ago I was living in Boston. I was 24, recently out of college, and I was walking down Boylston street with my boyfriend, Kevin. But we were both afraid to hold each other's hands in public, and it wasn’t until we were inside Club Cafe, yes it's still there, that we felt safe enough to so. So we did, and as you can imagine, we also kissed and danced. And in the words of President Obama, who spoke earlier today, we were living. For many in our community, clubs have always been be our safe haven, they are the places we go to celebrate our identities in safety, to dance, laugh, kiss, hook-up, and have a drink. They are places like Pulse in Orlando, and here in Maine we have Blackstone's, Styxx, Flask,Maine Street and several others.
So the news this morning was startling, like a home invasion. Someone broke into our house and killed members of our family. Like you, I’m angry, I’m sad, I’m scared, and i’m in shock. I don’t really know what to tell you, other than we will not hide. We will not go back in the closet, never!
As you know, it’s pride month. And we will be out and proud, and celebrating our identities and the diversity of our community together all month. We were already at Central Maine Pride in Waterville last weekend, yesterday, we were at Pride events in both Belfast and Bar Harbor, we’ll be Pride Portland all week, and next week we’ll be at Bangor Pride.
Our hearts hurt as we think about all the lives taken from us this morning and our thoughts are with the families and friends who are grieving the loss of their loved ones. We stand united with the gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, and latin-x communities of Orlando.
Yesterday at Belfast pride, I met so many wonderful people who were thrilled to finally have a pride event in their part of the state. There was a young girl, no more than 10, who came up to our table with her dad. We talked a little about what EqualityMaine does, then she interrupted us to tell me she had come out at school this spring as bisexual. “Cool! I replied, “Way to go!”
So, as we grieve and mourn as a community, I think of all the young people, like the girl I met yesterday, who should never feel ashamed about they are or have to worry about their safety in this world. We are committed to all of you -to your well being - young and old, wherever you live in Maine.
I know today is hard, but we have each other. So, hold each other’s hands more tightly, hug a little longer, kiss with more passion, look into each other’s eyes more deeply, dance like you’ve never danced before, and listen with more compassion than know you had, because so many of us are in pain and just need to be heard or hugged or both.
Yes we are hurting, but together we are strong. We are, after all, family.