Yesterday I was given the opportunity to speak at a vigil held in Provo Utah to honor the Orlando community.
The following are the words that I prepared for the event.
Hi. My name is Kathy Carlston.
Shortly after waking up yesterday morning, news reached me of the horrific shooting in Orlando, Florida.
This event hits hard for me on a personal level as I identify as a gender-queer lesbian and I acutely know that my LGBT family across the world is absolutely reeling right now. Frankly, I’m reeling as well.
I wanted to share a bit of what I’ve learned from my experience in the months and years after being present at Columbine High School when tragedy struck in 1999.
No matter how dark things are, the dark can not stay indefinitely. There is hope and a future filled with bright possibility.
After the event at Columbine, my classmates and I went on a long journey together to try our best to heal and make sense of a world where we experienced more emotional, and some physical pain and anguish than we thought was possible. We’ve now been on this journey for 17 years. Some of us are therapists. Some are artists. Some are trying our best to put one foot in front of the other. But for me, looking back at my memories of times that felt impossibly painful and dark, I remember my friend Denee, kneeling in front of me as I sobbed on her kitchen floor. I remember her listening to my story of what had happened to me. I remember how she held me and stayed present with me. I remember other times of sitting in my family’s minivan with two of my dearest friends, talking for hours and healing together. I remember how my family held me and let me sob the first time I saw them after I was emancipated from the school.
Frankly there were dozens of times when I was in so much emotional pain that it was all that I could do to keep breathing. But through friends and family in my community who knit around me, I was able to find healing and a future filled with hope and wonder.
To anyone listening, there are hundreds of thousands of people, LGBT+, their parents, their friends and others who are in desperate need of safe spaces. We need safe spaces to discuss and work through the pain that has just been inflicted upon our fellow humans, upon members of our community. I feel strongly that we all know someone who fears for their safety and emotional well-being in the wake of yesterday’s events.
Let’s do everything within our power to create communities of safety and refuge. Those havens will become more healthy, robust and ultimately more life-giving for everyone involved. Now is the time to stand together. It’s always the time to offer our love and care to those in pain.
To all of us who are in pain, to the community affected by these events whose world will forever be changed, I send my love. And for anything it’s worth, I send my assurance that you will be able to make it through this. You will be able to grow and help others in your future.
To those supporting someone you love who is in pain, I send my deepest gratitude. You have an impact. You make a difference. Your love can change lives.
To close, I’d like to leave you with questions from my heart. I’m going to read them off, for you to hold, examine, and silently answer on your own.
What would that look like?
How would we do it?
What if we knit together to form bridges and nets of support for those in crisis?
What are the limitless possibilities of outcomes of our efforts if we succeed in our goal to help and heal?
What can I do to help someone’s day be better today?
What if we refuse to declare war and insist on declaring peace?