By :Tommy Susinno
June 12, 2018
2 years ago, today, 49 lives were lost as a result of a horrific, devastating act of hate at an openly gay nightclub named Pulse based in Orlando, Florida on a night celebrating the gay Latin community. In that moment, all I could do was cry. All I could do was panic. All I could do was think “That could have easily had been me”. As an openly gay, Hispanic man I felt so personally attacked and it felt like my communities, the LGBTQ+ and TGNC communities took a sucker-punch to the gut on that day. If you asked me what I was feeling that day I think I would tell you it was a state of panic with disbelief all at the same time. It was a beautiful morning – it was a picture-perfect morning. I went outside to talk with my dad and I just wanted to break down in his arms. I just wanted to let him see just how scared I was. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. A few days after that happened I was going to be attending my first Pride March in New York City ever. Part of me didn’t want to – part of me thought that there was no way I could ever muster up the courage to do that. 2 years later from that day, I create this narrative, reflecting on what it’s meant to be gay and what it’s meant to be a queer person of color in the month of Pride.
I felt my race for the first time in elementary school, taking a standardized test and being confronted with selecting my race. I realized my sexuality when I was in high school. And as I prepare for my next Pride march I realize the impact and importance of my community. As the counseling services manager at the Pride Center of Staten Island I get to hear diverse stories each and every day. I get to be the part of a narrative vastly greater than myself. That’s truly a dream come true for me. I remember hearing Lady Gaga scream at the top of her lungs at her Monster Ball Tour in Madison Square Garden about the importance of celebrating diversity and individuality and that it was okay to just be yourself. I have the honor of echoing that message each and every day to the clients that come across my way. It’s a privilege.
Pride isn’t just about celebrating the importance of equality. It’s about celebrating and honoring the war against prejudice, intolerance, discrimination, and hate. Gavin Grimm can be considered a model for this. Gavin, at just 19, Gavin has managed to accomplish the unthinkable. At the age of 15, Gavin began to fight the injustice that was plaguing his daily living – his school was disallowing him to use the restroom in which he identified with. After 4 years of endless court hearings and procedures, Gavin has triumphed when a court ruled in his favor – thus mandating the school to allow him to use the restroom in which he identifies with. It’s spirits like Gavin’s that instill a sense of hope to the endless discrimination and adversity that the LGBTQ+ community faces on a daily basis.
Pride is the nail polish I wear to support the Transgender and Gender Non-conforming community. Pride is the floral I incorporate into my clothing to represent my continual blooming – the continual – ethereal growth of my spirit, my heart, my love, and my energy. Pride is the way I let myself cry in front of my dad again. Pride is reminding myself what I stand for and the people who came before and who lost their battles pre-maturely. Pride is the ever-encompassing body that governs everything that I am. It took me an eternity to understand the depths of what pride actually is. I have a feeling this will be a never ending lesson to which I eagerly anticipate what lies ahead ~