A Walk in Their Shoes


Photo: Friends and I at the OneOrlando Fund Run/Walk for the victims of the Pulse tragedy.


A month ago, Orlando was changed forever after the City Beautiful was attacked. I am still in a fog over the reasons why. It is so hard to understand the deep hatred that someone can have towards another person just because of their lifestyle. When do you become so bothered by the way someone lives, you feel the need to kill him or her. I feel sorry for you and your internal battle.

I understand what it is like to be gay. I have lived through my brother’s eyes for many years. It could have been him dancing at the Pulse nightclub that night. It could have been me dancing with him.

My brother lives in NYC. He lived through the 9/11 attacks. One of the first texts I received from him said, “I’m sorry that your city was attacked, and he understood how I felt.” Are you kidding? He understood! I could not have imagined receiving a more heartfelt message from someone who has endured prejudices most of his adult life.

No, he did not choose to be gay. My Mom did not hand out different boxes of cereal, and he decided to pick “that” box. Yes, he was born that way. It could have just as easily been my sister or me. Honestly, no one would decide to live a gay lifestyle because he or she enjoys all the negative attention that comes from naive people.

My brother told us how he felt in the late 80’s. It was never an issue for my family, as we love him no matter his preference. However, society did not provide these same open arms. Back then; I could barely say the word “gay” to anyone for fear of not being accepted. I went from saying nothing to speaking up when I heard the bashing. Yes, I take it very personal because I have listened to years of gay jokes, comments from so-called friends, coworkers, and even family.

I am especially over the religious mindset from those who think he will go to hell for being gay. I have witnessed family members tell him this. They are no longer considered family. I know my God loves everyone; you will not convince me otherwise. I know my God believes you should treat everyone with dignity and respect. I will live my life this way no matter what others think. In the end, we will see which one of us is begging for forgiveness at the pearly gates.

Today is certainly more accepting than twenty years ago. The City of Orlando has come together in ways that have made me proud to live here. There is still a long way to go. We are now dealing with insane people who believe their life is worth more than ours is, no matter our race, religion, color or beliefs. It is going to be a long battle.

I sent this article over for his approval, and this is what I received back. “Thank you for the thoughtful blog. I am sure what happened in Orlando weighs heavy on you, as did 9/11 for me. Terrorism stays with you and maybe never leaves. My earlier text to you was more about how terror can change your city and destroy so many lives. While this was a gay thing, it could have easily been a school or office thing, so ‘I’ did not take it so personally. Thank you for taking it personally.”

Those words speak volumes, and we can all certainly learn from his positive demeanor.  Think about the way you talk and treat people in general. Imagine if your brother, child or family member came to you and told you how they felt inside. Would you turn your back? Would you want that done to you? All they want is to be accepted and love whomever they choose. Try to walk in their shoes for just one day.