Safety in the sanctuary: What only a few are saying about Orlando
Spirituality - It's one of the key values I ask my clients to think about as we try to figure out how to get them moving again in life. It comes in lots of traditional forms like religion, meditation, community, and prayer. It also comes in less traditional forms like nature, science, reading, and dancing/clubbing. If you haven't thought of clubbing as a spiritual experience, imagine this: All week as you go to work and run errands and do normal things, you have to hide some key part of your identity and finally on Saturday night, you gather with friends, listen to music, are allowed to be yourself for a few hours. If I said, "On Sunday morning," perhaps you would have thought I was talking about church. That is what some bars and clubs are to some members of the LGBTQ community and to other marginalized groups.
Please don't stop the music details some reasons why gay bars are so important to the community and why the Orlando shootings this weekend were even more terrifying than they might have been in another venue. It wasn't just that people were killed but that people were killed in sanctuary - in the one place they thought they were safe.
What makes the situation even worse is that not only do many not seem to understand how clubs are sacred spaces, they also see them as unholy places. Whether it's the Texas Lieutenant Governor tweeting blaming and shaming things or a generalized feeling that clubs and bars are places for debauchery and sin, there is a sense of victim blaming to an incident that occurred in a bar.
I can barely begin to imagine what the massacre in Orlando has meant for members of the LGBTQ community, let alone speak for them. But I know that feeling of being connected through bars, clubs, music, and dance. Young people, especially, feel disconnected from others as they leave their families of origin yet are not ready to make families of their own. Bars and clubs serve as sanctuaries of acceptance, chosen family, and connection that are relevant to most people at some point in their lives and to marginalized groups more so and for longer.
I feel both fortunate at times and sad at others, that most of my time at bars and clubs with chosen family was before the age of digital cameras. Now caught up in the adult world of jobs and children, I often long for that feeling of freedom, relaxation, and connection with peers that was so profound on those Friday and Saturday nights of my youth. I cannot imagine the horror of having those beautiful memories interrupted and tainted by a violent event like the Orlando massacre. To not only have to remember that night forever but also to have future dance experiences riddled with fear that it could happen again, would be devastating.
So if you find yourself explaining away this tragedy or trying to make yourself feel safe by saying, "bars and clubs are such dangerous places..." take a moment and ask yourself whether it would be appropriate to say what you're about to say if it was a church. Because that's what bars and clubs are to many people and especially some members of the LGBTQ community: CHURCH.