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Monday, June 13, 2016

I've Learned to Live With a Very Flexibile Definition of 'Okay'

"Are you okay?"

I've been asked that a lot in the past 24 hours. I may have a bit of a reputation for emotional fragility, I'm afraid. I've been in a "thin place" for a very long time, and it doesn't take much to move me.

"Abrazo" by Hermán Marina
Neon, 2012
I'm not really sorry for that, though. We saw Steel Magnolias (yes, again!) recently and this production strangely omitted one of my favorite lines: "I have a strict policy that nobody cries alone in my presence." I subscribe to that philosophy without shame, because the alternative--being unable to respond to others' pain--sounds like prison. I know men in this culture are supposed to be stoic (the two acceptable expressions appear to be "winning" and "rage") but I've been told most of my life that I'm not a normal man and I've made my peace with that long ago.

So friends have been checking in, cautiously, like I might re-enact Sally Field's hysterical graveyard scene at the slightest provocation. The sweetest was the co-worker who offered to lend me her puppy.

"Are you okay?"

And the truth is, I don't know. I'm not even sure if I know what that is anymore.The world has been so crazy for so long that, as Sister Lily Tomlin's character on Grace and Frankie described it, "I've learned to live with a very flexible definition of okay."

"Okay" as in "Not in immediate danger to self or others?" Yes, I can go that far. I have a support system, I am not neglecting my basic needs. I eat and sleep (a lot). I made myself exercise and buy food. I know I am loved.

But isn't there more to "okay" than that? Aren't I entitled to feel safe? Shouldn't the people in charge be doing more to end the scourge of bloodshed than making hollow promises of "thoughts and prayers" (especially ironic when coming from some of the same public voices who keep reinforcing the notion that people like me are somehow "less than")?

So if you're queer in America in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Sixteen in the Month of Pride, all the world is not at peace, and "okay" is relative. You're okay because you woke up this morning and found yourself alive, you have a job and a place to stay, and a family that accepts you. But you still have to second-guess any action that might draw attention to yourself, weighing whether some man (it's seemingly always a man, have you noticed?) will have a problem with it, and whether he might have a gun.

49 people were killed by one man with one gun, which he bought in a store despite multiple queries by the FBI into his behavior. 49 people. How many is too many? 100? 200? "It was just one small town"? Sadly I despair that the will even exists to make it stop. Horrible as it is, I agree with the person who tweeted that the gun debate ended at Newtown: If 'murica wasn't heartbroken enough by the deaths of toddlers, I doubt that the slaughter of LGBT folks will be the tipping point. There are already tweets out there saying they deserved what they got.

And that, my friends, is Not Okay.

Pulse Nightclub Victims Fund

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