As you are reading this it has been a few days since the two-year mark of the Pulse tragedy, but because of how deadlines and press days fall, I am writing this the day before the June 12 date.

June 12 carries a weird energy with me now. For those who don’t know, I share my birthday with the same day that a disturbed individual decided to take 49 lives at Pulse. Last year at the one-year mark, while attending memorials and vigils, I was receiving notifications of Happy Birthday and messages wishing me a fun and happy day all while grieving with my community and consoling friends.

I have a very close friend by the name of Chris who frequented Pulse. He’s a good guy from a conservative home in New York and came to Orlando to attend school. Pulse was the first gay club he had ever gone to and he spoke of it, and still does, as the place that felt more like home than anywhere else. He would go every Saturday for Latin Night, meet up with friends and dance until 2:00 a.m.

On June 11, 2016, Chris had plans to go to Pulse for Latin Night, just as he had done nearly every Saturday during the previous year since we had met. Before that though, he was meeting with me and some friends for dinner and a movie. Since June 12 was on a Sunday leading into press day, we were celebrating my birthday that Saturday. The evening was to be dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, a movie at the Regal Winter Park Theater and then the weekly back-and-forth of Chris trying to convince me to come out to the club and dance and me telling him I am too old to go dancing.

The restaurant was packed, as it always is on a Saturday night, and the movie—which was called “The Lobster”—was much longer than we anticipated, causing us to get home at nearly 2:00 a.m. Chris hugged me, wished me a happy birthday and took off thinking he may make it to Pulse just in time to make it for last call.

As I was settling in to watch a movie, Chris called me and said he was just turned away by a police officer as he was approaching Pulse. The officer told him shots were reported at the club. He came back to the house and we worked on trying to find out what happened. None of the local channels were reporting anything yet. The only source of information we had was Ms. Darcel Stevens at the Parliament House, who was on Facebook Live, and was chatting with people who were at Pulse at the time.

The next 48 hours changed the community and the city forever, and now as June 12 nears I am compounded with an array of emotions. Sadness for what happened, and what continues to happen in the country, due to gun violence. Gratitude for the friends and family I have who accept me for who I am. I feel happy that the restaurant was crowded and the movie was long so that one of my dearest friends could be here with me. I feel guilty for feeling happy because so many didn’t make it home that night. But above all, I feel proud. I feel proud of the community’s reaction to this hateful act and for all the amazing and beautiful things you have all done in honor and remembrance for the 49 lives lost on June 12. The love I feel for this community cannot be put into words.

On that note, we celebrate Pride Month with the community with an in-depth look at the Sweet 16 celebration of St. Pete Pride. In our A&E section, we chat with openly gay “Hollywood Medium” Tyler Henry, who brings his national tour to both Clearwater and Orlando. We also look at the “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” collaboration between Cocoa Village Playhouse and the Zebra Coalition. In news, we look at the lawsuit filed by Pulse survivors against the city of Orlando here in Central Florida and how the VA is taking care of LGBTQ veterans in Tampa Bay. We also talk with Florida attorney general candidate Rep. Sean Shaw about how he will be nothing like Pam Bondi if elected.

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