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Lorber: LGBT Rallying Cries

Following the massacre of mostly queer and transgender Latinos and Latinas at the gay bar in Orlando, we rallied. In Burlington, police estimated that approximately 2,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, Vermonters, along with our straight allies, marched silently down Church Street, hugged one another, cried together, sang songs, and listened to speeches in City Hall Park.

For most of us, this is a familiar drill, because discrimination against us isn’t new. Violence against us isn’t new. Having members of our community killed isn’t new. And rallying together isn’t new. In fact, for me, and for many, these gatherings are practically a rite of passage.

My life as a gay man has been marked by dozens of protests, funerals, tragic marches, angry rants, and gatherings of shared disbelief.

There was the candle-light vigil when Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old boy in Laramie, Wyoming was killed in a casual gay-baiting, cold-blooded murder by two kids his age. I remember the searing pain we all felt, as we held lit candles and wept.

There were also uplifting victory parties, and judicial jubilees, inspiring and celebratory. And at those gatherings, I cried joyful tears.

In the 90’s, we knew we were on call. We knew that like clockwork, within a day of some unexpected atrocity or hoped-for victory, we would check the newspapers for the announcement of where we were supposed to gather. And we did. En masse. We needed to be together, because in bad times, we refused to cry alone, and in good times, it just didn’t make sense to dance by ourselves. We had to be among those who understood.

These rallies may be less frequent, but they continue.

After the Orlando-induced gathering, I walked home down Church Street, and ran into many friends, including Eli, who is genderqueer and about my age. He said, “Jason, I’m tired of these rallies. When are they going to end?” And without thinking, I said, “Never.”

I told him, “This will always be a part of our lives. There are battles left to fight, and we will win many, but not all of them. There are many people who will always hate us and do us harm. But I think overall, we’re making progress. And it’s because we’re a community who celebrates, mourns, and marches together.”

Jason Lorber empowers and inspires teams at companies and non-profits through his business, Aplomb Consulting. He has an MBA from Stanford, and is a former Vermont state legislator.
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