When I woke on Sunday morning a week ago, I was visiting my family in Salem, Oregon for my twin brothers’ high school graduation. Thanks to my early morning work schedule, my body clock no longer allows me to sleep in much. I rolled over in bed early and looked at my Facebook to see a headline about the Orlando shootings.
I immediately contacted the Orlando Anarchy, the Orlando team in our league, to see if they needed anything. I didn’t know at that point they had members of their team present. It was just my instinct to reach to check on them as they are pretty much my only connection to Orlando.
A little bit later, as more info came out, the news came that they in fact had 2 players and an assistant coach present at the shootings. One player, Paula Blanco, was shot and going through surgery in the hospital to battle for her life. The assistant coach Cory Connell was also shot and died at the hospital. He was only 21 years old and helped with the defensive backs.
Needless to say, this let the Orlando team heartbroken.
Let me back up a bit. Our country has seen in influx of mass shootings the last 25 years that seems to have just gotten worse and worse. Motives have varied between ISIS, mental health, and sheer terror. I still vividly remember the Thurston High School shooting in the 1990s as it was an hour away from where I lived. I was very upset about the Clackamas Mall shootings a couple of years ago as I lived in Portland at the time, and visited that mall frequently. I knew people in the area of the shooting but luckily they weren’t there at the time. I also of course was devastated by the UCC shootings in Oregon as that is my home state.
But I will tell you that this Orlando shooting has hit me straight in the heart even more than the others.
You have 3 levels of grief for me. The first is on a human level. We are all human beings. We feel compassion for fellow humans that are unjustly destroyed. It is what we all feel during any mass shooting. This level however, can lead to one becoming easily desensitized. We see it so much now that you almost have to emotionally disconnect. I think a lot of the country does this.
The second level is that of the LGBT community. For my straight friends and readers out there, you cannot fathom how close this community is. We are a family. You could meet someone across the country from a completely different background, language, religion, and understand that they are LGBT and instantly love them.
There is this thing that happens when a group of people is ostracized for so long. You seek each other out in comfort. You connect with each other to find a sense of community and an outlet to discover who you are and what that means.
A lot of straight people still hang onto this notion of why have Pride? Why can’t you just do it in private? What they don’t understand is that Pride events are about celebration of diversity and celebration of the fact that yes,we are different than you, but we love ourselves, we love each other, and we love you as well. Pride is a cultural expression of the LGBT community of love.
Also, the Pulse nightclub being a gay club is a huge ordeal in itself. Gay bars and clubs have historically been a place of safety for many people over the years to be able to be themselves without fear of judgement. The gay club has been a refuge and a hub for so much cultural change and progression that I’m sure you could write an entire thesis on it.
Think about it, there are only so many people out as LGBT. Your dating and community pool is significantly less. Therefore, it needs an outlet and avenues for the culture to exist, define itself, and progress. That is where these events and spaces are so important.
I tell everyone that coming out is equivalent of going through puberty all over again. Weird things are happening, you have no clue what any of it means, you don’t understand where you fit in the scheme of things. It’s scary time and having a support system in which you can navigate these waters is the healthiest way to come to terms with who you are.
You might laugh but when I was going through Puberty Part 2, watching the L Word actually really helped me. For straight people, the L Word was basically like the lesbian Sex and the City but with hotter women. I understood that these characters were fictional but I also understood that a couple of the actresses did like women and that the stories were based on some reality of the lesbian scene in LA.
They looked completely different from the stereotypes of lesbians I had seen before portrayed in the media as butch mechanics with mullets. These women were beautiful, feminine, smart, had jobs, families, and great sex. Their lives weren’t easy but they were normal. It made me feel less of a freak and more like this sexuality thing was really just a part of who I am and not a damnation to have to wear Birkenstocks with socks which makes me cringe to this day. Seriously, why people?
There is a reason that Stonewall happened. It was a fight for the right to be oneself and exist in a safe place and others trying to take that away. This is why the LGBT community is torn apart over this shooting. It is the loss of life, the loss of family members, the loss of a sense of security, and the reinforcement that although we have the right to marry now, our fight is long from over for acceptance.
The third level for me is the football aspect. Of course, football means a lot to me but the biggest reason why is the people involved. We are also a family. I like to call it the football fraternity. You are from 3,000 miles away? A different country? You speak German and I speak English? It doesn’t matter. You put on your pads, I put on mine, and you are my sister.
The very nature of football demands a team bond unlike any level I have seen in other sports that I have played. Believe me, I have probably played almost all of them. There are moments, and players, and teams you bond with but they do not come close to the dynamic of a football team.
If you think of logically, football is a sport in which it takes all 11 people to move the ball and all 11 to stop the ball. You cannot have a Kobe who just takes over the game and throws up 50 shots. If you have Adrian Peterson in the backfield, if no one blocks, it’s now 11 versus 1 and no matter how good he is, you aren’t moving the ball.
Football is a complex war game over territory. Everyone has their job. If you don’t do your job, your friend gets their ass kicked. You develop a trust because of how physical the game is and that you NEED each other to survive in it.
Women’s football also has a deep connection because we are pioneering a sport that has so much promise. We are pouring thousands of our own money, blood, sweat, tears, knees, ankles, travel, and time into our collective dream to make this sport what it can and will become.
This is made such a bond across the sport that we are a family unlike any other besides my own personal one, that I have a seen. If one us is hurting, we all hurt. If one of us makes it, we all make it.
As such, when I was driving back home to Seattle, I stopped at the gas station and thought, how can we help these people. I am in Seattle and they are in Orlando so obviously I am very far away. How can we bring about funds and support quickly and efficiently? The idea came to me to sell tshirts online and send proceeds to Orlando.
I posted this idea on Facebook and by an hour later it had exploded. Everyone poured in their ideas. Some had in person connections and others online. Shalya Blair stepped forward and said she has a vendor she works with that she thought she could the price down pretty cheap on shirts. She came back the next day with great designs from a friend on the shirts and got a website up and going quickly.
We posted this thing everywhere. Within minutes of me posting to Facebook groups, our football family had sent this thing to all their networks. Within minutes and hours of me posting to other groups that are sports related, the sharing increased. We are creating traffic and sales.
Each shirt is $20. $10 covers the cost of the shirt and shipping and $10 goes directly to the Orlando Anarchy to disperse to the victims, their families, and community. I want to point out the love and generosity that truly defines our sport. I am so proud to be a part of a group like this.
In closing, I would also like to mention the dynamic of the club shootings occurring on Pulse’s Latin night. A lot the victims and the patrons there were Latino. This attack was also on them and we should remember to respect and honor that culture’s grief as well.
These terrorist acts seek to destroy our way of life. Our diversity, love, and freedom to live is what they want to take from us. Our weapon to destroy terrorism is knowledge, love, and unification.
America is beautiful BECAUSE it is diverse. That was the entire point of her existence in the first place. We are the UNITED states of America and therefore should take care of each other better.