The emotions are quite complex today after the mass murder at the gay club in Orlando, Florida. As I pondered what words to share, I thought of a section of my memoir (not yet published, but hopefully soon) in which I contemplate the risks of being an advocate and spokesperson in the LGBT community. This moment occurred in 2005 shortly after I became the pastor of the Cathedral of Hope in Oklahoma City. I am with my boyfriend at the time; he was on staff at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas.
Hanging out at John’s condo in Dallas, we would often curl up on his couch together to watch the final episodes of Queer as Folk as they aired that summer. In one the gay nightclub Babylon is bombed. Our mood was sober when we finished watching the episode. Holding me close he said, “You know, we have high security at the church because of this very fear.”
“I know about the high security. They have educated me about it.”
The main offices of the church were at the backside of the building, away from the parking lot. They could only be accessed with a card that was electronically coded. Many members of the church had never been in the church offices. At the front of the church building was a reception area that was separated from the rest of the building. The reception area contained a waiting room where you sat and waited for someone to escort you into the building to the main offices. Cameras monitored the building and during worship services and big events uniformed security guards patrolled the grounds. The ushers were also trained in how to respond to a disturbance.
“Does the church really fear an attack?” I asked.
“We have received many threats through the years and the rare person who attends worship and starts making anti-gay statements. Nothing serious has ever transpired, but we, of course, take precautions.”
He turned to look at me. “I worry about you and your congregation, however. You have none of the safeguards we do, and Oklahoma is even scarier than Dallas.”
“I don’t think our congregation has ever had an incident. We are so much smaller that most people don’t even know about us. You all are big and in the news a lot.”
“But,” he said, “if you do your job well, that will change. People will know about you and that could draw unwanted attention.”
“I guess it’s something we should prepare for.”
John then held me close and said, “I fear for you personally. What if you are attacked? What if someone tries to kill you? You are already pretty public, and there are lots of crazy people.”
I touched his cheek. “I’m not sure why, but I’m not worried about that. I’m not afraid. I really don’t think that anything is going to happen, but if something does happen and I’m harmed, then it’s not like my worrying about it will help.”
“But you should be cautious.”
“I know. And I am. I will be. I am still getting used to all of this, of course.”
We sat there silently for a while, holding each other.
“You know,” I added, “I’m not afraid because if something were to happen to me, it could probably be used for good. I’m willing to be a martyr for my faith and for something I believe in if that’s what happens. I’m not going to seek it out, but it doesn’t frighten me.”
“It frightens me,” he said, kissing me.