I’ve been on the periphery of the NaNoWriMo community since 2018. I have never really found “my crew.” So as I was trying to “find my crew” in the LGBTQIA+ group, preparing for Camp NaNoWriMoin April 2022, I thought I would try to find others who were of like minds.
“Old Femme Dyke Looking for Other Old Homos (Most Un-PC Thread Ever)
“taking a big deep breath
“I’m a 60+ year old femme dyke and am writing a semi-autobiographical novel about the years between 1978 and 1988, immediately pre- and post-AIDS. It’s mostly uplifting – filled with fun and joy, sex and way too many drugs, and includes a road trip (of course).
“I’m keeping the vernacular of the time, hence wanting to talk to others who were in the discos – the glory holes, the bath houses, etc. – during those years. I was a fag hag who lived with groups of gay men, so was privy to their sexual lives. While graphic sex isn’t the driving factor of what I’m writing, it is definitely the undercurrent throughout. (And I am not wanting to have sexual discussions here!)
“Adding another layer, I was coming out as a femme lesbian in a world filled with androgynous women. Drag Queens were my sister-friends. Trans folks were rare, so have bit parts in the book. (One of the hundreds of Un-PC things being written.)
“I am also wanting companionship as I recall those who died without hope and without their families.
“Gads, this is complicated. Anyone?”
Reply from the Moderators
Intro to automated one:
“This is an automated message from NaNoWriMo to let you know that your post was hidden.”
That was boring.
Highlights of the individualized email:
“Your post has been hidden because of the language of your title and in the body of your post.”
“… inflammatory words.”
“… you are part of the community”
“… you have every right to reclaim that word …”
“… we support the community reclaiming those words …”
“… seeing these words can still be triggering …”
“Thank you for understanding.”
“Well, ‘understanding’ is probably not the word I would use, (name removed), but since I have no choice in the matter, that pretty much is the end of it.
“You and I both know that ‘inflammatory’ words are in the eyes and ears of the beholder. These words are not inflammatory to me at all, never have been, even in the cruelest and most volatile of years.
“It’s certainly going to be interesting to see this book in the hands of the public some day. I better build my walls of armor now.
“This reminds me of the 1978 book called Faggots by Larry Kramer (I encourage you to look it up) when the gay community went berserk with his disclosing what they wanted to keep hidden. I can relate!
“Instead of feeling thwarted, I am empowered to move forward faster.
“Thanks for the sword!
Where Do I Belong?
I called my former partner, my Beloved Zack, to ask, “Where do I belong if I don’t belong with my tribe?” He was so kind and said, quite emphatically, “NOT IN THE LGBTQIA+ COMMUNITY!”
He recounted a discussion at a Transman meeting after his phalloplasty and they were talking about penises in general and someone stood and said “My girlfriend” (who was sitting in the meeting of transmen), “is triggered by the word ‘penis'” and expected the discussion to stop. Zack told the guy to take care of his girlfriend by ushering her outside if she did not take care of herself by removing herself from the transmen meeting.
That was the last Trans meeting Zack went to.
Again, Where Do I Belong?
So, am I so old that I really do not even belong in the gay community anymore? What about my feelings of ostracization and feelings of experiencing ageism?
I have marched and written reams of articles fighting for lesbian rights, gay rights, lesbian mothers’ rights, gays in the military, gay marriages … I’ve spoken on local and national TV news programs … and now I am marginalized? Now my own experiences are moot because I am old?
Now I am not needed because those rights have been won and it was so long ago, the fight doesn’t even matter anymore? Because no one alive in these groups remembers the people who fought for them?
I FOUGHT FOR THE RIGHTS THEY HAVE TODAY!
Who the fuck did they think won these rights for them?
Now I am not needed because I am not PC? Because my words don’t “fit” with the younger mindsets? Because the vernacular changed while I was out fighting for their rights?
Where Are My People?
Zack told me to find an older group of liberal straight writers to work with. I have no idea where they are, but will begin a search. (Thank you, Google!)
I’m working diligently on a memoir about my life in the gay community between 1978 and 1982, the time immediate preceding, then immediately post-AIDS. The writing is going well and I am loving where it is headed and how it’s unfolding.
I have so many stories from that time, I considered naming the book Sex, Drugs & Disco, but there already is one from pre-AIDS San Francisco. Not that books can’t have the same name, it just seemed too easy. The working title is In the Bushes which comes from when I pimped for a gay friend in Lake Eola, looking for sex for him. We were 17-years old.
Then there were my first forays into the gay bar scene, the drag queens, the drugs, the copious amounts of alcohol… and the sex. Lots and lots of sex. One of my girls asked to read some of what I had written and then pushed it away in the first couple hundred words. I knew then I was on the right track. laughing She shan’t be a Beta Reader!
During that time, I lived with several gay men in a few places, including the Parliament House, a gay complex. Lots of naughtiness ensued.
I ran away to New York City, ran out of money in DC on the way home, was present for momentous occasions in our nation’s history and took part in many side trips into the infamy of DC life.
At the time, I had no idea I would write this book in 40 years.
I have belonged to two groups of women… lesbians in the 1980’s and early 90’s… and midwives in the 2000’s… who swore by consensus, believing it was the way to run a group.
What is Consensus?
A definition is important. Governing by Consensus is when everyone in the group has to agree with the topic at hand or the issue is not finished/closed/settled until everyone does agree. This means that in a group of 1000 people, if one person disagrees, then the solution offered does not pass muster.
Until that last person agrees.
If the last person never agrees, the subject is tabled for another time. Usually until the last person leaves the group or keels over.
Not Loving This
I am not a fan of consensus. I’m just too skeptical to believe everyone in a given group is altruistic enough to really listen to the issue at hand and leave their own egos out of the equation in order to find a conclusion to a problem. That would be because I have been around enough people in these groups who get off on being contrary and don’t give one whit about the group as a whole or even the pieces parts (the others) in that group. Instead, they have a life goal of annoying people, seeking attention and wreaking havoc wherever they are.
I’m a majority rules kinda gal. The feminist separatists reading/listening to this are shrieking, “That is so patriarchal!” Whatever. Majority rules works whereas consensus does not.
For example, I was part of the San Diego Lesbian Press Collective in the late 80’s/early 90’s. A “collective,” pretty much by definition, is governed by consensus. The politics of the lesbian community during that time was extremely separatist… men were persona non grata to the lesbians. Now, I had 2 male children so was immediately suspect, but they let me into the collective because they needed writers and I can write some good controversial shit.
The Press was always needing money. Finding advertisers was a never-ending job for some of the womyn (spelled w-o-m-y-n) in the group. Thankfully, all I had to do was write.
We Need Money to Survive, but NOT His
That was until a potential advertiser came along who happened to be a MAN, then I was required to attend the collective meetings.
This MAN was going to be a major advertiser, affording the Press to go for at least a year without begging others for money. But, his being a man… using money that a man made… was a serious breach of the way the Press worked.
But some wimmin (w-i-m-m-i-n), myself included, felt okay about accepting the dude’s money because it would mean the Press could stay operational for a long time and our (collective) lesbian voices would be spread further and wider. Many others, of course, did not agree.
And So We Began
So, discussion ensued.
I committed to abstaining from the beginning, but was required to listen to the discussion lest I not understand what I was abstaining to. Therefore, I began the interminable task of listening to the back and forth of why we should take the man’s money or why we should not.
In the beginning, the arguments were typical and have already been mentioned… we could operate for another year without worry and we could have our message spread further and wider. But the “discussions” began to get heated.
“Talking about a man at all is polluting our environment!” So we moved outdoors so the Universe could absorb the negative energy of the masculine discussion.
(You think I am kidding. You would be wrong.)
“MEN have so much ANGER wrapped into their money-making! I don’t want that energy anywhere near our paper!”
(Never mind the really loud, and not always polite, discussions occurring at that very moment.)
You also might be thinking this meeting would have been a couple of hours long. One would have hoped, yes. But, this topic was a couple of hours long, carried over, every week, for THREE MONTHS.
It was worse than that tennis match feeling, watching ideas lobbed over a net only to be returned nearly identically a few moments later. I lost count how many times I said, “I abstain.”
It was clear the issue was becoming desperate when creative ways were developed for how to accept the money even though he was a man. My absolute favorite was that he give the money to his wife and she be the one to gives us the money out of her bank account. Seriously. This was a topic of discussion. FOR WEEKS.
There never was consensus on what to do. The lesbian separatists refusing to give in to THE MAN and those with more mission-minded thoughts knowing that, in order to keep going, we needed that money. Because there was no consensus, the money was not taken and the San Diego Lesbian Press folded a mere two months after the end of the discussion.
See? It should have been majority rules… they might still be in operation today.
Needing to sleep again. Feeling the jolts of electricity that were not so conducive to sleep. I put on Amazon Prime’s 80’s music to sleep by. About the 3rd song in was Bette Midler’s“The Rose.”
Memories of my days at the Parliament House here in Orlando with all my gay boy friends (& sex-capaders) watching drag shows flooded my brain.
It was 1979. I was 18 years old. And I was a Fag Hag.
Quaaludes. Poppers. Sex with strangers in cars. Amaretto with cream and OJ. Friends taking acid & having bad trips. Walking by rooms with open curtains & open doors, inviting whomever in to be with whomever as whomever watched from not-afar. The Baths. Glory Holes. Gay Porn. Learning to suck dick and get fucked in the ass (with the ever-present can of Crisco) by my 8-gay friends I lived with in various locations, including the “PH.” (When we were with our parents, we called it the “Pancake House.” We were so slick. snort).
Laying on the bed, I sang with Bette, thrice through, crying, missing my friends who have died from AIDS. After “The Rose,” I remembered I had Bette Midler’s Divine Madness on my Kindle, putting it on.
While I first met P (he initially was Miss Pauline, then Miss P, then he dropped the Miss and was “P” for the years I knew him) as a Drag Queen, we became wonderful friends and worked together at the Subway Sandwich shop in Winter Park, by the infamous Sinkhole. During the time I knew him only as P, I, of course, used female pronouns, but when I used “she” at work once, he spun around and told me “HE!”. So that is why I use “he” even as he is P.
Paul and I, while there were 17 years between us, were really compatible. We shared a love for books (we shared books a lot), music, Broadway shows, the theater… and black men.
I loved Paul. I mean. LOVED. I ached to have him take me in his arms. He never did. He did sing “The Rose” to me whenever it came on while we were working. I remember it like it was yesterday.
So, if I couldn’t have Paul, I could have the next best thing. His straight, blue-black boyfriend, Tuna. Long passed is why he was nicknamed Tuna, but that’s how we all knew him. Tuna had a bullet still lodged in his thigh. He taught me the word “Nut” for orgasm. He loved my ample white ass. I used to have sex with Tuna while Paul was on stage. Tuna told Paul years later and when I went to visit him (Paul) with my new son in my arms, he confronted me. I was (rightly) mortified and apologized profusely, claiming stupidity as a child of 17, 18, 19, 20. He barely forgave me, but I am glad our last contact was wonderful and positive.
The Flood Abates
So many waves of memories lick the shore of my mind, but I want to get this out before it grows too long.
So much more to say. I need to share it so those after me can know there really was a completely hedonistic time before AIDS. I lived it. (I do also carry scars, but we’ll share those another time.)
This book was integral to my beginnings of loving my body as well as understanding the vulva in midwifery.
Tee Corrine was an artist in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. I learned of her around 1988 when I moved to San Diego from Frankfurt. I was a newly out dyke and Zack was still in the Army in Frankfurt (but was being separated for being lesbian) and I attended Lesbian Support Group meetings at the LGBT Center in downtown Hillcrest.
The Cunt Coloring Book, published initially in 1975, was extremely controversial, even when I first saw it in the late 1980’s. Older lesbians told the story of how difficult it was to get published and some enterprising dykes published it on their kitchen tables to start. It was shared in an underground fashion, passed quietly from woman to woman (ha! the spelling of “woman” at the time was “womyn”… couldn’t have the letters “men” anywhere around a vulva), sometimes one woman coloring a page and having the next in line color the next one.
There were very few lesbian mothers at the time and I knew of no gay fathers at all. We moms eventually formed a Lesbian Mother Support Group and it was awesome. I loved meeting other moms who understood the secrecy needed when sending our kids to school… how the Emergency Contact was a “friend” who happened to live with us.
Just like when any moms get together, there are going to be different parenting styles, but blessedly, they, for the most part, didn’t spank. I was already in the Natural Birth and Parenting Communities, a La Leche League leader (who I also had to hide my sexuality from) and had been a doula for around 6 years. There was one mom who talked about “seeing red” when she got mad at her kids and she thought we all did, that that was perfectly normal. I remember an intervention, of sorts, where we discussed what was discipline and what was abuse… a topic hardly ever mentioned back then. We encouraged her to find a therapist and deal with the anger instead of taking it out on her kids.
My first experience with a Lesbian Separatistwas when Zack and I were still in Germany. A woman in our Gay Support Group, Friends of Dorothy, was quite proud of telling us about how she was so Separatist that when she gave birth to a boy, she was disgusted and gave him to his father, never to be acknowledged again. I am still as horrified now as I was then.
The lesbian community in San Diego was quite polarized in 1988, the Separatist faction wanting nothing to do with men. At. All. I had a boy child (and co-parented Zack’s son as well) and was not welcome in Separatist spaces. Even if I didn’t go with my kids, I was snubbed and usually left because no one would talk to me. I refused to pretend my son didn’t exist, so soon learned where to, and where not, to go.
While there have been transgender folks since the beginning of time, there seemed to be so few back then… public… except in bars, usually as drag queens doing lip sync shows. Goddess forbid a lesbian come out trans; he was ridiculed and the venom flowed that he had joined The Enemy and just wanted to be part of The Establishment instead of remaining an oppressed dyke. I admit I shared that sentiment, finding transmen to be the most confusing aspects of the LGBT community. Little did I know I would be confronting it head-on in 20 more years.
Blessedly, the Lesbian Separatist Movement seems to have faded into the recesses of history.
San Diego Lesbian Press
At this time, the late 80’s, is when the term Politically Correct was just coming into vogue; it wasn’t a negative term yet. The words became a frequently used phrase when I worked at the San Diego Lesbian Press as a writer.
“The first issue of the San Diego Lesbian Pressis published in October (1987), just six months after a group of women meet to discuss the need for such a publication and form a collective to make it happen.”
A “Collective” being the operative word. The SDLP operated on the “consensus” method of making decisions. (Or rather, NOT making decisions!)
Consensus is a process for group decision-making. It is a method by which an entire group of people can come to an agreement. The input and ideas of all participants are gathered and synthesized to arrive at a final decision acceptable to all. Through consensus, we are not only working to achieve better solutions, but also to promote the growth of community and trust.
In other words, consensus is a group of people who argue for WEEKS on end about trivial shit and rarely, if ever, get anything done because everyone in the group is an Alpha Female and refuses to concede to a different position/belief/idea.
Clearly, I hate consensus. It started with the SDLP, but has continued in other, mainly lesbian or women-prominent spaces.
One SDLP argument:
It was a Separatist newspaper, but was always on the verge of dying because of lack of funds. One time, a man (gasp!) wanted to advertise in the paper… something benign like a lesbian bar. But he owned the club and the money would come from him. So several women had hairy cows over the issue of whether to accept the money or not. I am not exaggerating when I tell you the “discussion” went on for weeks… 3 meetings a week… for at least 4 weeks. “What if the check was written on his wife’s account? Can we do that?” “What if he ‘donated’ the money. Then could we accept it?” “We can’t take it for any reason… on principle.”
I got so sick of it; that was when I left.
My Early Published Writings
I wrote some good pieces while I was at SDLP, though. Looking back, well…. I wrote a piece about admiring Indian (from India) women’s “costumes” after going to a parade and there were many women in sparkly harem outfits. I asked myself if the women were hiding behind the veil and did I find them “mysterious…” or did they really represent oppression? I asked if I was I admiring the oppression of women in another culture? I barely had a glimmer of recognizing oppression of other cultures by flaunting them. That would grow over time.
I wrote a very long and very well-received article on how BDSM is one of the most vile and sub-culturally-accepted forms of physical abuse against women. I insisted there could never be consensuality and both submissives and Dominants were deluded in their belief that it was acceptable behavior to be hit/hit, that no one EVER deserves to be hit. For any reason.
When I was coming out in the BDSM community in 1995, I had to overcome that long-held belief. Apparently, I did. Completely. laughing
I was privileged to attend several really cool lesbian concerts and shows and, because I wrote reviews, I got in free (I was way poor at the time). Jamie Anderson, Tret Fure, Cris Williamson and the Indigo Girls long, long before they were as well-known as they are now. There were also lesbian comedians: Lea DeLaria (now famous in Orange is the New Black), Kate Clinton and Lynn Lavner all gave me great interviews. It was hilarious hearing about our (lesbian) lives through their comedy. Decades before Ellen. Both the singers and comedians generally alluded to the lesbian community… except Lea DeLaria who was screamingly out. We were more used to reading between the lines and, in the case of songs, changing the gender from “him” to “her.” (I think lesbians and gay men still do this!)
My Own Early Activism
Below is a picture of me marching in the Gay Pride Parade (what they were called back then) about 1989.
It was very challenging being a lesbian mom back then. Many of my friends lost their kids to their former husbands when they came out. I was one of the very few lucky enough to march.
Besides lesbian issues being important to me back then, fat issues were also important. That will be a post all on its own, but I needed to make a comment here about my marching 3+ miles as a fat woman. I did it. Easily. I was also 28 years old. The fat activists of today are in their 20’s. I will share, in other posts, what exactly fat does to a body’s mobility as the years pass. And I’ll discuss fat and health issues as well. I believe that, because I spent a great deal of time speaking and writing about fat activist issues… the importance of not fat-shaming (a relatively new term)… that I am uniquely able to talk about fat as an older woman and the hobbling effect it has had on me. Anyway, as I said… other posts.
Okay, moving on to another topic. Writing as fast as I can.
I’ve always been femme. When I came out in 1979, I didn’t have one clue about the different nuances of lesbians, that took years of experience and then reading lesbian novels, books and magazines.
Meeting My Butch
On April 22, 1986, when my youngest, Aimee, was 2 days old, I went to a La Leche League meeting and among the 20+ women, pregnant and nursing alike, I saw Zack, 7-months pregnant. (Zack was presenting as a het woman at that time.) My first thought when I saw him was, “How the FUCK did this Dyke get pregnant?!”
A tad of backstory. I’d had Aimee in the car and finagled leaving the hospital in 3 hours and Zack heard about me at his childbirth class, wanting to leave the hospital right away as well, so got up from his nap to come to the LLL meeting specifically to meet me.
After the meeting, Zack hightailed it right for me. Damn, he was intense. And so, so Butch.
Just This Side of Being a Man
Once I met Zack, my taste in Dykes was sealed. I was fond of saying I liked women just this side of being a man. (Of course, now knowing Zack was trans all those years, he wasn’t on this side of being a man, but that side.) I really cannot find a Dyke Butch enough for me. Stone Butches make me weak in the knees.
(The topic of transmen begs to be discussed here, but it has to wait for its own post because it is one of the most convoluted emotions I have whirling around inside at the moment.)
Butch & femme – a Sweet Balance
When Zack and I got together a few months after he had his baby, we barely recognized, much less understood, what the Butch-femme dynamic meant. We knew we balanced each other well. (Yes, I really am going to flaunt stereotypical male and female characteristics.) I was an awesome stay-at-home mom, nursing the babies, reading to them and researching better ways to parent.
Zack, on the other hand, was mechanically inclined, great with spacial relations and was the “fun” parent.
Delightfully, he also co-nursed the babies. (We always said how great it was having 4 lactating breasts in the house.)
Then Political Correctness Intrudes
It was a gradual realization that what we were doing wasn’t the most acceptable way to be lesbians. I distinctly recall hearing that Butch-femme relationships were “aping” het marriages. (Could there be any uglier word to describe something?) I was really confused because we weren’t imitating anything; we just Were. I see now, on the periphery, as gender roles are smeared away, hints of Butch-femme acceptance again, but I promise you, there were the lean years when we were mocked and told how disgusting we were for acting like het couples.
I find it interesting I never tried to be anything but femme, even when doing so was incredibly looked down upon. And my Beloved Zack, never wavered in his ButchSelf either. I love that we simply ignored the winds of Political Correctness, living our lives in delicious balance.
For some odd reason, I decided to put on Whitney Houston’s Greatest Hits this morning and suddenly found myself back with Zack and the little kids in Frankfurt, Germany, circa 1987-1988.
Good lord, we were in love. Crazy, all-consuming, mesmerizing love. Emotional, yes, but also physical. We could not keep our hands off each other, having sex several times a day. Zack, being in the Army and nursing two young babies, barely slept. In the morning, home to nurse for lunch, when he came home and then all night long. How he ever functioned is beyond me.
Zack made me feel beautiful for the first time ever. Until him, I had never had sex without a shirt on, covering my ugly body, but especially my belly that bore the effects of three huge babies. I remember the first time in bed with him, me in a shirt. He looked at me flabbergasted and said, “Fuck that shit!” and took my shirt off himself. Then he made love to all of me in a way that had never happened before despite having had several lovers and lots of casual sex.
The way he touched me, sliding his hands over my body, nearly worshiping every soft and gooshy part of me, kissing me (and my entire body) with complete abandon, learning quickly how to pleasure me… and doing so over and over again.
(Words seem so inadequate, so trite, so overused in trying to describe these experiences. Forgive their mundane-ness.)
The babies were in our bed so we had pillows, blankets and sheets kept under the TV in the living room and as soon as all four kids were asleep (and I do mean as soon as!), we were laying on our make-shift bed on the floor, touching, kissing, licking, fucking… and orgasming over and over and over again. I never came so much in my life as I did when first with Zack. Insatiable doesn’t begin to describe that ravenous time together.
Sometimes we tried to have sex in the bed, the babies settled on either side of us. We had a fiber-optic flowery thingie up in the top of the closet and when we were going to have sex in the bed, we opened the tiny upper door, giving us faint light that shifted and rolled as much as we did with each other.
(Writing, Whitney continues singing, not stopping to allow me to catch my breath from crying so hard, memories nearly drowning me. How can she be so unaware of my need to stop for a moment? That I need to feel, relive, remember these sensations lest they vanish into the ether once again. I keep having to stop writing to wipe tears and blow my nose.)
The babies were really young… right at about a year, year and a half… so were nursing often. It was not unusual to have to stop our lovemaking session to walk to the bedroom, climb onto the waterbed and nurse one or both of the babies back to sleep. I used to be so frustrated with that process; Zack was matter-of-fact about it. (A much better attitude, for sure.)
Resting here, “seeing” that time flowing inside my mind. I could write for years and never cover the expanse that was our love back then. I write, yes, but he and I share secrets with each other we will never tell another soul… the Take-It-to-the-Grave sort of hidden thoughts and experiences.
See me sitting in the middle of the living room, waiting for Zack to come back after nursing the babies? Me, listening to Whitney Houston singing songs I would listen to in 30 years, my quilt of memories covering me from the cold of old age and loneliness.
Oh how I love that man. I’ll call and tell him so today.
Most of you know I identify as lesbian. Really, the words are “femme Dyke“… a more political, descriptive explanation of how I walk in the LGBTQ+ community.
Buzzfeed recently asked folks to share their first gay bar experiences as a way to express the good and bad of the atmosphere in what used to be seen as a safe space. I wrote mine out and wanted to share it here as well, especially since my babies have asked me to write my life here on the blog.
There is so, so much more to the story, but here is the outline of my life at the Parliament House in Orlando.
What Gay Bars Mean to Me
I was 17-years old in 1979 when my gay boyfriend and I ventured to the Parliament House in Orlando, Florida. It was like walking into Wonderland; an alternate Universe I never knew existed. For once, being a fat girl didn’t make any difference… I was embraced and accepted for all that I was. In fact, I found myself in the midst of brilliant, eccentric, artistic and whirling-twirling misfits that pulled me into the middle of their all-male fold.
Besides dancing to Donna Summer and drinking watered-down gin & tonics, the PH had a Show Bar where Drag Queens performed twice nightly. The Divine Miss P emceed, her biting snark gave me a view into humor I’d never experienced before. There is nothing quite like being the object of a Drag Queen’s dart.
Divine Miss P
For some reason still unknown to me, the Drag Queens took me under their wing. I was not even in the bar legally, must have made a fool of myself with my ignorance of gay culture a hundred times, yet they sat me down in front of the make-up mirror and taught me how to “paint my face.” For years afterwards, I was asked if I was a Drag Queen (although the huge rhinestone brooches and bracelets, the feather boas and glitter in my pink hair might have had something to do with it, too). It took until I had kids that I learned to tone down my make-up enough that strangers didn’t think I was about to lip-synch a song for them.
I initially wrote this on my Navelgazing Midwife blog, but it needed to be shifted over to here. It was written on July 4, 2016. I remain endlessly in awe of those that responded to the call for help in saving lives on June 12 and 13, 2016.
I have wanted to write this since 3am on June 12, and every day since, but it took awhile to even begin to formulate the right words; there was simply emotion and incredible sadness hindering my fingers.
I was a midwife and doula for 32 years, holding lives in my hands many times, resuscitating babies and stemming the tide of postpartum hemorrhage in mothers. Yet I have but a whiff of what our First Responders (and others named below) experienced the night of June 12 and all these days since. I have tried to think of a way to thank these people, have an intense urge to seek each one out and hold them close to my heart while whispering, “Thank you,” over and over again.
The scope of actions from those that were there… are there… for my gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer and straight family, Latinx or Anglo, (for they are family to all of us) is enormous. The incredible amount of love, care, detail, sweat, tears and even shock must be acknowledged. As a care provider myself, I listened to the incredible unfolding of the hospital staff’s descriptions of their work as the waves of dying and injured flooded through their doors. I sat through their first press conference with survivor Angel Colon front and center, enraptured, yet sobbing with gratitude and awe at their choreographed and executed dance to save lives.
I know I could never begin to thank every agency that pulled together those first 24 hours, but I need to try. Each profession or organization I list is a thread in the whole, beautiful tapestry that is #OrlandoStrong.
Please feel my overwhelming love and gratitude… and know there are thousands and thousands of others who feel the same. You people, my Superheroes, are a gift to humanity. Never, never let the finger pointing touch you. Do not claim that bureaucratic static that will certainly grow to a cacophony before too long. Stay true to your knowledge that you did everything right, you saved so many. You did the very best any of us could ever have done. No, you did far, far better than most of us.
Thank you a hundred million times plus 102 to those mentioned below. If I have forgotten you, just add yourself to the list; it was merely an ignorant oversight. You, too, belong here.
Thank you to:
– The entire Orlando Police Department who risked their lives, over and over again, to save as many people as possible. I am filled with so much gratitude, my heart overflows with tears streaming down my cheeks.
– Everyone at the Orlando Sheriff’s Department who also risked their lives multiple times and kept communications between the different agencies running smoothly. I also weep with gratitude for your agency.
– Orlando’s amazing SWAT Team who found ways to get into the building to save people and then removed that evil animal from this earth. You all are incredible.
– All the tireless Paramedics who used their minds and skills, even when the solutions were unorthodox, to help save lives.
– All the Ambulance agencies that responded and tended to the wounded while getting them to the hospital as fast as possible.
– All the EMS personnel who had many roles to fulfill in saving lives.
– All 911 Dispatch Operators… my heart aches for you wondrous folks who comforted the injured and dying throughout the several-hour ordeal. You gave genuine love to those that died while you were on the line with them and helped keep others alive until help arrived. Your professionalism and note-taking will not be forgotten as the information continues being disclosed. I send you special wishes for emotional and spiritual healing from this horrific experience.
– Orlando Regional Medical Center Hospital, especially for their readiness drills that helped set them up for success with extreme situations such as this. No words can possibly express my pride in your response, care, and skill when you were least expecting it.
– The ORMC Trauma Team, all those years of study, school and thousands of hours working in the hospital and learning specialized skills culminated on June 12, 2016, saving untold lives.
– The Emergency Room Team, thank you for always being ready for anything. You were there. You were there for all of us that night.
– The dozens and dozens of Doctors – ER, OR & ICU – for utilizing everything you’ve ever learned (and things you surely had only heard about) to save so many. There really are not enough words to offer my gratitude and love for you all.
– The Orthopedics teams… your amazing skills working with the back and muscles was most assuredly crucial that night. I am sure you saved so many from being paralyzed with your gift during surgeries. Thank you so very much.
– The Microsurgeons, your extremely specialized skills surely saved so many from bodies that would be unable to feel or move properly once healed.
– The Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgeons, your specialization was crucial with the horrific injuries to the chests of too many. Thank you for keeping so many hearts pumping.
– The beloved Nurses – Trauma, ER, Triage, OR, ICU & Surgical Recovery… it is beginning to sound trite, but I promise, I am absolutely speechless with gratitude for your gifts of kindness and skilled caring. Nothing that night (and since) could have been done without you incredible human beings. You are the Angels of Mercy.
– All the Surgeons of an endless variety, thank you for specializing in your individual areas and to the General Surgeons, thank you for attending to the multiple types of injuries that night. Thank you all for remaining strong and focused during the assembly line of cases that surely seemed never-ending at times. Your hands, in the most direct way, saved so many lives that night. Thank you.
– Residents – who used every moment of training to step in wherever you could.
– OneBlood blood bank personnel including Blood Collection sites, thank you for assuring there was ample blood at the hospitals for all the cases that needed it. Thank you, too, for opening up sites on Sunday to collect blood and organize getting that blood back to those whose lives depended on it.
– The Phlebotomy team, your job had to have been incredibly challenging that chaotic night of terror, finding veins and arteries, keeping the vials organized and then running the thousands of stat samples to the lab, over and over again… thank you for your skills and dedication.
– The Radiology team – your job was infinitely complicated by the sheer numbers of people working on each person, yet crucial to examining the patient in a life-saving manner. Thank you for knowing how to peek inside the bodies that needed so much help.
– The Respiratory Services team who were called into action to keep massively injured people breathing, either from the assault or the incredible shock and fear they were experiencing. You all are wondrous healers for those who cannot breathe.
– To Environmental Services, who were said to have cleaned and set up a room in 30-45 seconds; miraculous! It is challenging enough to keep things pristine and safe from cross-contamination under normal circumstances, but that you worked with all that blood, tissue, drapes, gauze, tubes, gloves, and then cleaning beds, rails, the floor and emptying the contaminated trash while patients were waiting for a place to lay… doing all of this in mere seconds, really is worthy of immense gratitude.
– To you amazingAnesthesiologists and Nurse Anesthetists… while I know you are highly-trained for emergencies and working with people in dire pain or unable to communicate their medical history, I am sure this night multiplied the need for your skills and knowledge dozens-fold. That you were able to anesthetize our precious friends and family so they might be saved under such circumstances is a miracle to behold. Immense gratitude.
– ToORMC Laboratory Services, the tasks thrown at you June 12 and the days immediately after had to have been enormous, yet you were there as the backbone for the entire health and safety of the injured, getting blood to whomever needed it, organizing the lab results so all providers could coordinate proper care, the list surely continues endlessly. Thank you for your amazing skill and meticulous attention to detail under extreme duress.
– To the Orlando Medical Examiners, especiallyJoshua Stephany for your immense sensitivity in keeping that madman separate from our lost souls. The unbelievable task you all gently and respectfully undertook is appreciated beyond words.
– To the Physical Therapists who began working with the survivors almost immediately so they could have as full a life as possible once they are recovered, thank you for your skills and knowledge of the body and its nuanced possibilities through movement and touch.
– To theChaplains of the Orlando Police Departmentand the others around Orlando, thank you for rushing to the spiritual aid of our First Responders, the families of the injured and dying and praying with the mass of disbelieving friends and relatives in their moments of spiritual questioning and anger towards God. Thank you for your love and patience with so much inner pain.
– To our Mental Health Therapists & Psychiatrists who flooded the different locations where families waited for news of their loved ones, knowing crisis counseling was an immediate need and you provided it, with zero regard for payment of any kind except knowing you were helping someone in emotional pain. Mental health needs will reverberate for years and years for so many of us, so thank you in advance for all you will do for everyone as time unfolds the mental and emotional anguish of this horrific night.
– To the Pharmacists at ORMC, your enormous task of providing the correct medications for scores of critically injured patients has not been overlooked. Filling order after order in the middle of the night had to have been daunting, yet when you, too, called for help, it came in in droves. Thank you for your education and extreme attention to detail.
– To the LGBTQ Center of Orlando, who immediately opened their doors to anyone who needed a place to talk, be held, cry or mourn. No words can express my gratitude for all you have done, are doing and will continue to do for our incredibly awesome and diverse community. May our Center grow as much as our hearts have for you after this disaster.
– To the Cell Phone companies for keeping those injured and dying in touch with loved ones and 911 operators.
– To those inside Pulse that struggled to save lives as the horror unfolded, who shielded others with your bodies, who comforted the injured and dying as you hid anywhere you could, who held friends as they bled to death in your arms… no amount of tears and thanks can explain how full my heart is for you beautiful people. Your unspeakable pain will never be forgotten or taken for granted. You are incredible human beings who were in a horrible situation, but your soaring kindnesses outshone any evil that man tried to snuff out. Bless all of you.
– To those who work at Pulse for your belief in human rights and dignity – you will never be forgotten… especially Barbara Poma – you are so loved.
– To the civilians who just happened to be in the area and helped the injured, comforted the dying and transported anyone they could to the hospital, thank you. Clearly, we needed you there that night.
– Special note to the Religious Community… Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and many denominations of Christians… who pulled together to pray and offer support to all who needed it. In the days afterwards, church services were held to assist the mourners who found solace in religious healing.
One national speaker, Victoria Kirby York of the National LGBTQ Task Force, spoke at a local church service and she must be held aloft and applauded. In a sea of religions not understanding the LGBTQ community, Ms. York stunned everyone with her ability to use Scripture to affirm the LGBTQ experience and right to love who we choose. Her words were a spiritual salve for so many who have been alienated by the religions in our neighborhoods and the policy-makers’ pens.
To the hypocrites among the religious folks (you know who you are), I hope you are able to rectify the doublespeak you drooled off your tongues after our tragedy because our LGBTQ family keeps dying because of your hate and damning judgment. It needs to stop. Now.
Ongoing Love & Support
While the above list, surely not complete, reflects the care and love from only the first day or two post-massacre, I could continue for another three days thanking the multitudes of restaurants, airlines, hotels, businesses, those that brought Comfort Dogs to love on those that needed a tender doggie hug, and then the ongoing monetary donations to the Pulse GoFundMe Page.
I must also thank the rest of the United States and the World for their endless support through vigils and moments of silence for our 49 beloved murdered friends and 53 recovering victims.
Please take a moment to offer thanks to everyone I’ve mentioned and those I have forgotten to name.
And lastly, please remember the families of those who have died and been injured. Their lives are forever changed. May they find at least a moment of peace through all of our love.
To our most precious doves, we will never forget your names or who you are: