While you develop up “totally different,” which is how I usually felt as a younger queer individual in Florida, it’s possible you’ll really feel misplaced in your loved ones of origin. You might really feel like you don’t have anything in frequent with the individuals you’re pushed to spend time with in school, and that you could solely discover refuge in sure areas. For me, refuge appeared like sneaking into the visitor room at my dad and mom’ home to observe However I’m a Cheerleader with my different not-yet-out queer buddies, sitting at an LGBTQ+ espresso store for hours, and sitting with the Variety Consciousness Membership at lunch on Wednesdays. My Florida highschool technically didn’t enable us to have a Homosexual-Straight Alliance membership (GSA), so we have been a membership by one other identify—however everyone knew. The Variety Consciousness Membership included me and my merry band of not-yet-fully-out bisexual buddies, a pair allies who practiced Wicca, and a theater child or two.
We have been various sufficient. Extra importantly? We selected one another.
Once I obtained to varsity, I used to be capable of actually unfold my wings as a younger LGBTQ+ individual and create a selected household. I went to queer bars that held weekly school nights for these of us who have been underage, and I obtained concerned in GSA.
That is the place I met Drew. The primary day of the primary assembly of our GSA on the College of Central Florida, he and his roommate walked as much as me, launched themselves, after which simply stated, “We needs to be buddies.” It was a suggestion, not a request.
Sure, we needs to be.
To know Drew was to know pleasure. Drew launched me to pop-cultural tidbits I had by no means identified about earlier than—Dance Dance Revolution, the annual Eurovision Music Contest, obscure YouTube movies that I nonetheless watch at the moment. He included me in his various assortment of buddies that he picked up in several phases of his life, however by no means discarded.
He would stroll with a bounce in his step. He would hum “mmm” whereas hugging you, as if he have been utilizing further senses to specific his love. He would dance like a maniac with out caring how he appeared to anyone else. He would hype up his buddies as a result of to him, friendship was romantic. To know Drew was to know authenticity and love within the biggest capability.
Sadly, I misplaced Drew, together with 48 others the evening of June 12, 2016 on the Pulse nightclub capturing.
Reclaiming queer pleasure after tragedy
Pulse had been a protected house for thus many people. It was a real offshoot of our schooling, with drag present performances together with the likes of Detox, Ginger Minj, and Roxxxy Andrews—all earlier than RuPaul’s Drag Race was a mainstream hit.
However in a couple of moments, a crazed man with sufficient ammo to take down a military squadron entered the membership and fired off spherical after spherical after spherical. Drew’s boyfriend Juan made it to the hospital solely as a result of Drew shielded him on the dance flooring and took 9 bullets himself. We misplaced each of them that evening, nonetheless.
The times following this information left me bereft. In shock. Like a bit of me had been taken away. I didn’t know who I’d be within the inevitable subsequent part of my life. I felt as if my queer pleasure was snuffed out and couldn’t come again.
I used to be incorrect, although.
If not for pushing my ache into optimistic change, I should still be in mattress mourning the lack of my good friend.
Shortly after returning dwelling from Drew’s funeral, I joined forces with a number of buddies of his in Orlando and launched The Dru Mission—a company to honor him, named after his on-line moniker. Thus far, we’ve given out virtually $200,000 in school scholarships for queer youth, and given $15,000 in grants to assist individuals kind Homosexual-Straight Alliances—work that was close to and pricey to Drew’s coronary heart. We’ve additionally helped distribute essentially the most complete Homosexual-Straight Alliance information on this planet (co-written by Drew himself, due to some notes he had saved filed away on his pc) to assist faculties arrange their very own teams.
In some ways, this work has saved my life. If not for pushing my ache into optimistic change, I should still be in mattress mourning the lack of my good friend. I’ve discovered goal from this work, beginning with The Dru Mission, to my volunteering with Everytown for Gun Security to assist the brand new crops of gun violence survivors inform their tales, to the work I used to be privileged to do for the Matthew Shepard Basis for 3 years, to working with queer artists. And leaning into my identification, regardless of the violence and hate that individuals like me face day-after-day, has been its personal type of pleasure.
In a whole lot of methods, this work has additionally expanded my chosen household. I’m proud to name a few of The Dru Mission’s students my buddies. In truth, I simply helped certainly one of them transfer to Colorado (the place I now reside) from Florida to flee transphobic the state has just lately handed. I keep up-to-date on the work our different students are doing with their very own advocacy and may proudly say that they’re altering the discourse of politics on this nation. And who do I’ve to thank for bringing all of those unimaginable individuals into my life? Drew. That’s the lens via which I select to see my life. Simply as he did whereas he was alive, he continues connecting individuals.
Centering queer pleasure throughout pleasure (and past)
Throughout this month, along with honoring my good friend and people we misplaced at Pulse, I make sure that to middle pleasure, as a result of that’s what Drew would have performed. I at all times rejoice a bit further by uplifting my chosen household of proficient buddies—all of the unimaginable LGBTQ+ individuals making society higher via their activism, work, and artwork.
I placed on “Glistening” by Grace DeVine—a tune I helped write concerning the nonbinary expertise and being joyfully queer. I inform individuals to learn my good friend Brandon Wolf’s e-book, A Place for Us, which is about his expertise studying to like himself in any respect intersections of his persona, due to our mutual good friend Drew. (I solely met Brandon after Drew’s passing, and I treasure how we are able to hold items of him alive collectively.)
In a world the place there are tons of of legal guidelines looking for to push our neighborhood again into the shadows, I discover that our queer pleasure is resistance. It’s mild.
I assist native drag performers, like my good friend Jessica L’Whor, somebody who has been doing drag for a decade now and continues to shine within the face of adversity whereas supporting neighborhood initiatives. And I attempt to amplify the voices of individuals like Sarah Todd, who’s creating an area for queer musicians to put their music commercially, and who just lately positioned a tune with Apple throughout Satisfaction Month (and was introduced by the corporate’s openly-gay CEO).
This chosen household of mine continues to uplift the voices of the marginalized whereas making splashes of their very own. Our successes are shared as a neighborhood, and I’m proud to have the ability to revel within the accomplishments I see these fantastic people obtain.
In a world the place there are tons of of legal guidelines looking for to push our neighborhood again into the shadows, I discover that our queer pleasure is resistance. It’s mild. I discover that our neighborhood is courageous and robust and resilient. The house we create for one another is protected and sacred. I welcome the buddies I’ve had since I used to be younger and people I met this weekend at Denver’s Pridefest alike with open arms, similar to Drew welcomed me into his all of these years in the past. I cherish that you’re a a part of my journey and I can’t wait to cheer yours on, as nicely.
The arc of justice is lengthy. I do know that we, as a neighborhood, are within the thick of our battle, however on this case, I see the arc as a rainbow. How might I not?
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