I am thinking about this book I’ve been working on for at least three years, three NaNoWriMos and then some.
The working title remains In the Bushes.
Here’s an unedited snippet from an early chapter:
Lisa heard Manny whispering, “Is that one over there?”
She looked and saw a tallish man wearing jeans and an AC/DC tee shirt slip behind the azalea bushes.
“Lake Eola is hopping tonight. Let me go talk to him,” Lisa said.
She stepped away from her friends to follow the older man, now in the shadows. When she was also hidden in the darkness, she softly asked, “Are you looking for someone?”
His answer was more a grunt than an assent.
She continued, “I think your friend might be over there.”
He looked towards her friends chatting out on the sidewalk. She knew they were deciding who would be the first “friend” tonight and who would be the decoys for the cops so the cocksucker would be safer with the guy in the bushes.
“Yeah, you know where my friend is? He got lost. Tell him where I am.”
She went back onto the moonlit sidewalk, pulling Manny by the hand, the hand that was sweaty and sticky before he even got near the stranger.
“Don’t be nervous. Once you get going, it’s easier.”
She yanked him back behind the azalea bush and dropped his hand before turning to go back to the other two guys waiting for her to find them a “friend,” too.
Lisa, Glenn, and Jason sat on a bench together, chatting. They acted as if nothing out of the ordinary was going on except they were out at Lake Eola at midnight, watching the space ship-shaped fountain changing colors. There was no indication that two men were just out of earshot – one sucking, one getting sucked – and that Lisa had facilitated that connection.
She had become their pimp.
Running Out of Chances
What if I died? Would anyone ever see what I’ve written? Or would it end up like the grand majority of unfinished manuscripts, tucked into a bottom drawer that’s dumped out when the writer dies?
I want people to read this. It’s a topic that is part of our history, gay history, and part of my real life. While it’s embellished with a bit of fiction to add depth to characters and scenery, much of it is right from my life.
While my work-in-progress, In the Bushes, is a novel, it is an Autobiographical Novel and there are composites of real people that make up the characters.
One of my friends from my 1978 gay days, George -the name he chose for his character- is being written as his real self. He’d be easily distinguishable because he was widely known.
Can you see me wince?
My real life friend George died a few weeks ago. My heart aches missing him.
And now I’m at a place where I’m lost as to how to continue with his character. He is integral to the story and being gone doesn’t really move the plot along.
(This feels incredibly morbid even talking about him in this manner, but I have to imagine others have similar issues, yes?)
Real Life Mimics Novel Life -or is it the other way around?
It never occurred to me to ask George what he would prefer I do if he died. Talk about morbid! He was active in the theater community and loved being the main focus of attention, so I like to think he would tell me to just go for it. Make George anything I want or need him to be, just let him have fun.
We had a great deal of history with each other, starting when I was 17 years old and ran into him at the front door of the Parliament House’s sprawling complex. Immediately, we went from acquaintances to confidantes and eventually roommates in several locations. We knew each other well.
We lived for the drag shows. We befriended folks in the piano bar. We disco danced quite clumsily.
When I had my kids, he was a sweet friend who supported me through my foray into straight life.
And now he’s gone.
Where to Go From Here
This is the challenging part of the “autobiographical novel,” – how much is me and how much is creativity?
I’ve pondered how to move forward for these weeks and think I’ve decided to let George lead the way. He does yack with me, so I could ask him what he wants to do next. I could let him have control of my hand and just write it out. I could listen as he dictates his desires then wake up and write the notes quickly lest I forget his words.
I’ve been struggling with parts of the book I’m writing. I was talking to Meghann about them, how hard the sections with crazy, anonymous sex and copious drug and alcohol use are to write about with the post-AIDS knowledge we all have.
What Will People Think?
The book Faggots by Larry Kramer, written in 1978, that, when it came out, was hated and trashed, especially in the gay community.
“Published in 1978 to a storm of controversy, Faggots was one of the most infamous novels of its time, a giant glitter-smeared Fuck You to the gay community it satirised so ruthlessly.”
“What happened next is even more interesting, and nearly unparalleled in the history of satire. Within three years of its publication, New York was in the grip of the AIDS epidemic. The dire predictions in Faggots about the devastation caused by a life of hedonism had come true, in the most horrific way.”
Larry Kramer Didn’t Give a Shit What People Thought
“Of the 2,639,857 faggots in the New York city area, 2,639,857 think primarily with their cocks.
You didn’t know that the cock was a thinking organ?
Well, by this time, you should know that it is.” – Larry Kramer
“I was young and stupid
I didn’t feel no pain
I was looking for trouble
I didn’t feel no shame
I was heading for a long day’s journey into the night… life
I wanted more kicks” – Roger Taylor
“I Didn’t Feel No Shame”
It is that line Roger wrote that’s bouncing around in my head.
Is it shame I feel about my/our hedonistic behaviors from 1978 until 1981? Is that why I’m struggling so much to get these sex and drug stories down? Why can’t I let go and write the truth of those days?
“Opening her eyes wide again, she saw the Top in a leather harness reach into the ubiquitous can of Crisco, slathering it onto -and into – the bottom’s ass before wiping his greasy hand on the bedspread, then jamming his dick into the collared man underneath him. The loud ‘umph’ came not only from the inserted, but several of the folks watching as well.” – In the Bushes/WIP by Barb Herrera
I want to be like Larry Kramer and Roger Taylor. I want to just write.
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.
On one of my Facebook groups, someone asked what the difference was between a lesbian and a Dyke. I thought it was an awesome question.
This is how I answered:
A lesbian is a woman who has sexual and emotional relationships with other women. A Dyke is the same… but only more so. Dykes tend to be more political, louder, more out there/in your face. Defiantly lesbian. My actual label is femme Dyke, an added descriptor separating me slightly, saying: I pass as heterosexual and it bugs the crap out of me even though I embrace my ultra-femininity fervently.
Definitions in Flux
Through the nearly 40 years of my Dykedom, I have watched the words gay (referring to a woman), lesbian, Dyke, femme, Butch, baby dyke, androgynous, woman, womyn, wimmin and more go through various incarnations. Sometimes it was Politically Correct (PC)… or Socially Correct (SC)… to use a “softer” word like gay or lesbian… terms like Butch and Dyke reserved for inner conversations and brought out in public during Pride Weekend.
As lesbians became more visible in the media, I watched the shift towards using Dyke in the lesbian community more common.
(And I capitalize Dyke and Butch because, to me, if we were to put them in a BDSM – Dominant/submissive – context, those words are distinctly more Dominant to me. And yes, I can hear the screaming now, but it’s how my mind works.)
Flux of Appreciation for a femme
As a femme, I’ve experienced a great deal of prejudice over the years.
When I came out in 1979, I hung out in gay bars because anytime I went to the lesbian clubs, the women turned their noses up at me because I was in a dress, wearing sequins and glitter. The uniform of the day for lesbians was Levi’s, flannel shirts and desert boots. I so didn’t fit in. Trying my luck several times, I always ended up retreating back to the gay bars where they treated me like royalty.
Being a femme with kids complicated things even more at times. 25 years ago, it was rare for there to be babies/kids in LGBTQ households. Not so much today. I would walk in Homoville, San Diego, unseen as a member of The Family. Even when I wore rainbow necklaces or other gay-identifiers, I was overlooked. Quite frustrating.
At a Dyke club one night long ago, I was dancing with a woman who was inviting me to go home with her. I was delighted, but told her I had to call the babysitter and ask her to stay longer. The woman gave me this horrified look and say, “You have kids? You’ve had sex with men?!” It was clear I would not be having sex with her that night or any other. I was pissed and asked, “Gee, before we have sex, should I douche?”
How a person identifies (or not!) says so much about how they walk around in the world. As a femme Dyke, I choose to only wear dresses, paint my face when going out and wearing a colorful variety of Birkenstocks (anything but black and brown. And how funny that I wear the stereotypical Dyke shoe?!)
Even though I am still a neophyte in the Gender shifts going on, I find much of the movement an enormous relief because I am now able to stand tall as a femme Dyke, someone I have been for 37 years.
The Washington Post relayed the information from a CDC & Trump Administration meeting Thursday night, December 14, 2017 that when the CDC presents their upcoming budget paperwork, they are forbidden to use the above 7 words.
I thought this was fake, ran to Snopes… nope. It is real. Checked Twitter. Real. Checked valid news agencies. Real.
I’m shaking I’m so angry… and even scared… of what this administration is doing to our democracy. By forbidding words, it is no longer a democracy.
Democracy has been dying since Trump took office.
“Treating science as a matter of opinion rather than an objective, evidence-based reality appears to have become a hallmark of the Trump administration, particularly when it comes to climate change. So, too, is scrubbing certain words and information from discussions, documents and websites that don’t fit with Donald Trump’s vision. The Department of Health and Human Services has dropped information on its website about LGBTQ individuals.”
This edict is one of the most terrifying things that have happened and are surely not the last we will see.
We cannot sit quietly and let this happen. I know many many people have been out protesting, but we have to find another way to be heard.
I was tempted to defend myself (I use PC terms when I can, I am not prejudiced against these folks, etc.), but I am leaving this piece to speak for itself.
Thank Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir for the Craft for this vomiting of things I have been too afraid to say out loud. He tells writers to “Be brave!” and write the things that are the most difficult to say.
I have this vision of the Oval Office having “FUCK FUCK SHIT FUCK”s bouncing off the walls like molecules pinging in boiling water.
It is not uncommon for that now-golden-hued room to hear expletives, but I’m betting that as the days unroll with the word “Russia” in each sentence, the “Shit, fuck, damn’s” have been accelerating and getting progressively louder. (And amusing side note: When searching “trump White House expletives,” the suggestions at the bottom of the page all had Bannon’s name in them. Hilarious… and expected.)
For 100 days, I cried and wrung my hands in terror that someone in the White House would accidentally (or on purpose) hit The Red Button and our world would be annihilated.
During those first 100 days, with every stroke of the president’s pen that removed women and children’s rights, that signed away our natural resources so the rich could get richer, that created enormous doses of xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, ordering the confiscation and deportation of people struggling to stay alive and on and on and on… and with every bizarre cabinet appointment, my heart broke and despair settled in.
I was directed by my doctors to stop watching the news because all it did was submerge me deeper into depression. I was joined by millions of others who had the new PTSD diagnosis called President Trump Stress Disorder, our nation’s leader now holding the distinction of being the first president to have an anxiety disorder named after him.
An epidemic is sweeping the nation, causing sufferers to experience feelings of hopeless doom, certain annihilation and cataclysmic collapse. It’s an existential plague manifesting itself by enveloping the stricken in a black cloud of despairing suicidal thoughts. The malady that is striking down innocent citizens left and lefter is … the Presidency of Donald J. Trump. It is literally making people sick.
But now, with the variety of Russian headlines intertwined with you all in that Oval Office, I am glued to the TV, the real news, (what you call the “fake news,”) and I sit on the edge of my seat waiting for the next delicious morsel of information.
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: