under attack. / by Jeff Herrity Artist

This most recent attack on the LGBT community has left me very shaken. Shaken to the core of my soul as a gay man. I'm not sure people understand what a place like PULSE in Orlando probably meant to its attendees. It was safety.

My own experiences with TRACKS nightclub in DC are the reason I feel that way. When I was younger and not even 'out' yet (I know, I know...) my friend Adam P. and I decided to go to this 'gay' club called TRACKS. Me, I was so eager to be around other gay people even if I was not yet ready to come out. I thought TRACKS would be the safest place to do that. So, Adam and I got in the car and drove to the club.

I was terrified.

We approached the ticket window and then were faced with the need to pay the cover charge. We had no money. Like zero. I think it was $10 each. We had to turn around and leave, sad. I was so close.

As we walked away we heard someone calling after us. It was the manager and he must have seen himself in us when he was that age. He escorted us into the club.

Yeah, it was just like Dorothy opening the door to Oz. Suddenly our lives were technicolor and full of joy and fun.

I had my first real kiss there.

I met my first boyfriend there. We 'broke-up' a week later. It was 'tragic'.

I met my 'family' there. Lynda, Jonathan, Tracey, Kevin, Skippy, JACQUIE, Helen, Missy, Kris S., Joe, Mark, DJ ADAM, ED Baily, Janus, Frankee, the list goes on and on. People that are still to this day some of the most important people to me that I can think of.

It breaks my heart to think that someone went into a place of safety - no different than a school full of kids - and began shooting for whatever reason. Hatred? Religion? Fear of being gay? It is said that the shooter was gay (which I had said to John was probably the case) and so I can't help but also to feel bad for him too, to feel that he had to do this for whatever reason his brain compelled him. UGH.

Why do so many people have to die because of love? It seems so backwards to me.

There were many more victims in this massacre. Not just the 50 dead, 50+ injured physically, but the 1,000s of people that are changed in an instant because of this. Social media only adding to the constant reminders. A place of safety and refuge suddenly became a danger zone. How many young kids, like me, have been trying to work up the courage to go to a place to feel accepted? Now, that place doesn't exist to them.

TRACKS became a place that everyone went to, each night different but everyone the same. Partying in a safe place where violence hardly occurred.

Until last weekend.

During Pride.

I hope that the 50, including Omar, woke up like Dorothy did in Oz. In a place, a heaven if they believe, where they can be free to be whomever they want without fear.


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