If you’ve ever been to gay bar on a holiday, or ever worked at a gay bar during a holiday, and I have, you get to watch the transformation of every person who walks through those doors: the unwinding of jaw muscles and shoulders; hips that start to roll about halfway across the room; the tone of voice that changes between the front door and the bar. You watch people become themselves as they throw back that first shot, the medicinal shot, then find immediate friends down the bar, or out on the patio. It’s as beautiful as it is tragic.

It’s tragic because they were never going to leave us alone. No matter how quiet we kept it, no matter how much we hid it in front of them. The police came into our houses and dragged us out in handcuffs, posted the mug shots in the paper so our bosses and families and neighbors would know what they had told us to keep secret. The military harassed us and threatened us and threw us out, even though they said they wouldn’t ask, if we didn’t tell.

They don’t want us to feel safe. They don’t want us to be safe.

Joshua Thurman, in a tearful interview shortly after he survived the shooting last weekend asked, “Where are we supposed to go?”

The Stonewall Riots began because they were lying then too, when they told us to keep it behind closed doors. So we came out into the streets. We fought back. We fought back Saturday night too. It was club patrons who stopped the gunman, who threw him to the ground and subdued him until the police arrived, and when they arrived, they placed handcuffs on one of those patrons, who said later that the police locked him in a police car, briefly preventing him from tending to his family members.

The police, as an institution, were not built to protect queer people, not when politicians fearmonger about drag queens and bathrooms to rally an evangelical base.

We protect ourselves. We’ll fight for our own. We always have. We’ll mourn. We’ll raise money. We’ll organize. And we’ll keep fighting, until all of us are safe, everywhere.

But tonight, I’m going to a gay bar. Maybe there’ll be a drag show.

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