I have spent 48 hours wondering whether to write this or not. I try to keep my gayness separate from my professional and public life, not because I'm embarrassed, but because, like most gay people, it is exhausting having to come out over and over again. Not only that, but sometimes I worry that it will immediately lead to judgements made on my work that do not relate. If you don't like my ideas that's fine, if you don't like what I'm saying because it's a gay person saying it: not fine.
Anyway, none of that matters now. Whatever justifications I have made in the past for keeping my role in the queer community as a distinct thing from the rest of my life, they are irrelevant.
The thing is, you don't just figure out you're gay one day and show up in a gay bar that same night, in the same way you figure out you're thirsty one day and show up at the pub. There is such a process to get there. To be on that dancefloor at 2am feeling free and alive and happy in your own skin is a victory, a celebration. To get there you have probably ticked off a fair few of these: you've come out, upset family members, felt friends become distant, had the people closest to you turn their back on you, felt at odds with the expectations of the rest of your gender, wished-at times- that you weren't born feeling the way you feel. For me, having worked in the television industry for some years now, I know that I have lost out on jobs because I don't represent a certain ideal- I don't look the right way- I was even asked once to wear a wig for an audition because I had recently cut my hair really short. (I didn't do it. I still got the job.) It took a hell of a long time for me to be comfortable in this skin, and I'm still working on it.
I moved from London to New York four years ago because whilst I adore my British besties to the ends of the earth, they are straight, and as such our social life is straight. I didn't have a community and felt like I was missing out, and I was right. Gingerly I made my way out into the big gay world of NYC, and that world embraced me with open arms immediately. It was at once a thrill and a relief and the years that followed in that city, though up and down, were so important. They were the most formative two years of my twenties. I learnt to feel truly comfortable in my own skin, to be seen on the scene. My crew was solid as a rock and through them I found a side of myself I hadn't really dared explore. It was and is amazing. That community made me who I am today, and now that I'm back in the UK I miss them terribly, though at least I now have the confidence to find that sense of solidarity again here.
And that sense of solidarity is the thing we should focus on after Orlando. I cried today, not for the first time in the last couple of days, when I saw that the town hall of the small town where I'm from had a huge 'we stand with Orlando' banner up, and beneath it flowers, candles, messages of support. There was a vigil here last night, as there were all over the country and all the world. It is that solidarity that will keep our community strong, allow it to flourish, allow those of us still battling to accept who we are to keep pushing forward, and those of us who have found ourselves here to embrace the spaces we have sacrificed so much to claim as our sanctuary.
We stand together now, and we speak up. Orlando has changed the world forever, but we will do you justice by continuing to celebrate you, and live fearlessly with you in our hearts.