Metro Weekly

Waiting to Exhale

Cover of Metro Weekly, June 23, 2016
Cover of Metro Weekly, June 23, 2016

This is the issue you should have been holding last week.

Our traditional post-Pride annual depicting on the cover a massive, exuberant crowd in front of the Capital Pride mainstage, and featuring pages upon pages of photographs from Pride weekend’s parade and festival. It captures a spirit that words cannot truly convey, showing the breadth of our community and its supporters, as they take a moment to show D.C. — and the world — that we matter more than ever, that we’re going to fight for every right, that we’re going to grind our (high) heels until we fully stamp out homophobia, that we are no longer in the shadows, meeting up in dank, secretive makeshift bars, that we are out in force, bringing a touch of quality, a note of class, and a lot of love to every person’s life we touch.

This is the issue you should have been holding last week.

And then, Orlando.

To have been at Capital Pride’s festival on Sunday, June 12, attempting to process the devastating, painfully raw news of what transpired mere hours earlier at Pulse Nightclub — in a Floridian city known for magic and joy in its purest form — was nothing short of surreal. What happened in Orlando did not stop the celebrations (Pride has too much momentum for that), and it was too new to fully alter the tenor of the event, though there were moments of poignancy — a minute of silence lead by Capital Pride President Bernie Delia, dedications from event headliners Meghan Trainor and Charlie Puth to the 49 victims and 53 survivors of the horrific massacre by a gunman with affections for ISIS and a deep-seated hatred for gays. We struggled to make sense of it while maintaining our right to feast on $18 corn dogs. Many of us just put it aside until later, which is completely understandable.

Only the night before, at one of the largest parades Capital Pride had ever produced, we celebrated with throngs of straight allies, marching, waving, celebrating our heroes, banging on drums, throwing batons as high as they’d go, painting our bodies, donning our finest drag (damn the heat and melting foundation), riding motorcycles, cavorting flamboyantly on floats blasting eardrum-shattering music, carrying flags (mostly of the rainbow variety), brushing shoulders with the British Ambassador and his wife, and throwing beads to onlookers frenzied to collect as many glittery, multicolored strands as possible.

It was fun. It was festive. It was empowering. It was amazing.

Sunday is always more sedate by comparison, a day to convene comfortably and gape in awe at our sheer numbers. For the staff of Metro Weekly, it’s long been a work day — as work days go, running up to people and asking them to smile for the camera only to frequently be met with a playful, “I’d better be on the cover!”, is pretty enjoyable.

But Pride that Sunday became a different kind of workday, at least for one member of our staff. Managing editor Rhuaridh Marr strapped himself to his computer and reported throughout the day as the horrific events unfolded, to the point where we got so much traffic at one point, it felled the website for about an hour.

In all, Rhuaridh filed more than 15 stories over a 24 hour period. He then wrote our eloquent, moving cover story last week, “Tragedy in Orlando: A Special Report,” which pulled the incomprehensible events into a cohesive narrative, offering as much perspective as possible. We know more since, and the conversation has moved past the heinous, sick actions of Omar Mateen and into the realm of social change, where gays often find themselves. This time it’s gun control and the failure of Congress to pass any sort of legislation on Monday, due to either partisanship or deeply entrenched ties to the NRA — perhaps the most revolting, self-rationalizing (and unfortunately massively wealthy) organization to desecrate our country. That the NRA can value the right to own a military grade automatic weapon over over our right not to be gunned down by them is mind-boggling. When discussing gun control, “It’s not expected to pass” should not be a media-recited mantra that we as a country are proud of. In fact, we should be ashamed and appalled that action wasn’t taken after Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech or San Bernardino or too many others to recount here. Democrats are as much to blame for this absurd gridlock, but mostly it comes down to the unwillingness to budge by Republican lawmakers, who, after a moment of mock remorse for the LGBT community, continued to put their own self-interests ahead of the good of society.

On the pages within — and on our website, where you’ll find hundreds upon hundreds more — you’ll see our community in celebratory mode, smiling, buoyant, freely expressing themselves in whatever means suits. Perhaps the most surprising photo of the thousands taken by Ward Morrison, Todd Franson, Julian Vankim and myself, was one in which a rainbow spontaneously appeared in a cooling water spray from a parked fire engine. Alongside the rainbow, the Capitol. If that’s not a sign of support from a gay-friendly God, I don’t know what is.

This is the issue you should have been holding last week. But you’re holding it now. So relax for a moment and smile. Be among strangers and friends who share the very thing that’s special about you. Exhale.

You’ve earned it.

Randy Shulman


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