“I am gay.”
That is what I felt when I learned of the horror in Orlando.
For years I was in the heart of New York City's gay community while working as a cast member in Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding (an interactive show inwhich the audience members participate as guests at the wedding). Each night on my way to the church (the show starts off in an actual church and moves to the reception later), I would stick my head in the Stonewall and say hello.
The Stonewall is a well-known gay watering hole in Manhattan's Greenwich Village and was recently designated as the first gay rights monument in the country. It was the scene of uprisings when being gay was illegal and a group of patrons in the bar fought back. These uprisings are widely considered the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement in the United States.
“Hey it’s Sal...come take my picture,” someone would call out from inside the bar inviting me in. (Sal was the wedding photographer and the name of the character I played.) Staying in character I would answer, “This is an important building, don’t let anyone ever forget it.”
"We won’t,” they always responded and off I'd go to the show.
In June of 1963 President Kennedy uttered one of his most famous lines: "Ich bin ein Berliner". Translation, I am a Berliner. Letting the people in Berlin know that the US was behind them after the Berlin Wall was errected stopping people from moving through Germany freely. “All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words 'Ich bin ein Berliner!' "
What happened in Orlando is beyond my comprehension. It just boggles my mind that this kind of hate can exist in 2016. But in the wake of all that hate something positive became quite clear to me and that is the meaning of Gay Pride. The love that poured out of the LGBT community toward one another is something the world noticed and can learn from. It’s a lesson we in the diabetes community might want to visit.
So, borrowing from President Kennedy's idea and the sentiment he expressed so eloquently; I am gay. In other words, we are in this together until this level of hate subsides We need to keep taking a stand. We need to stop when the wrong starts. As a heterosexual man, I have never felt anything, ANYTHING, but warmth toward and welcome from the gay community.
It has always bothered me that as much as I am involved in the diabetes community, it seems there is more that divides us than unites us. And it shouldn't be that way.
People I work with are convinced the world is tilted on its axis because there is so much confusion about the differences between type 1 and type 2. I hear sentiments like these expressed on a regular basis:
It happens all the time. Have we lost the meaning of the word, support? Have we lost the meaning of the word, help? Have we lost the meaning of the word, compassion?
There is something to be learned by the outpouring of love within a community. When we are united the world will take notice just as they notice when a community is divided. Which one is the diabetes community? Which one do we want to be?
This is not to say that there isn't anything good that happens within our diabetes world but have you ever considered how we look as a community? Would the outside world stand up for us? Would they come to our aid if needed? Why do we expect outsiders to understand us, accept us, and even help us when we do not even understand and accept ourselves?
The diabetes community needs to do better and unite. And no one will do it for us.
I am a diabetes dad.