In the midst of this Prideful June, when we as a community are joyfully celebrating our authentic, real selves, under sunny skies, with colorful parades that reaffirm our lives, there comes a dark, somber reminder of just why we take to the streets to declare ourselves during the sixth month of the year.

By Nathan James

Twelve months ago, another gathering of LGBT people assembled in the Orlando night, for that same purpose: to celebrate their lives as SGL men and women, at the Pulse nightclub.

These revelers thought only of the frivolity of Pride Month, of raising a toast to everything LGBT, and expressing themselves freely, although our society curtails that free expression still.

There was no hint of the horror that was about to befall them, nor were there any ominous signs to suggest that blood and carnage was to be imminently unleashed upon these defenseless young souls.

If the way our community is treated can be seen as a barometer of our society’s maturity, then by all accounts of the unspeakable massacre that was unleashed upon the patrons of Pulse, we’ve got one hell of a long way to go. It neither shocks nor surprises me, that the worst mass shooting in modern history was directed against the LGBT population.

A depraved, remorseless individual with twisted, evil hatred in his heart and brain, chose this nightclub as his target, and took away the lives of 49 human beings. 49 children, parents, spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, siblings, relatives. 49 people who never imagined that one night of living in their truth, would be their final experience. We know it from police and FBI reports, that the killer methodically planned his rampage, and coldly delivered death to people who neither meant, nor had done him any harm whatsoever. His victims died where they fell, their murderer’s merciless countenance the last thing they saw on this Earth.

Much has been said about the shooter’s professed allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist organization (although it took ISIS itself several days to acknowledge the attack), but one thing is undisputed: the Pulse massacre was a direct assault upon the LGBT community.

Those who perished, and those who survived, both make irrefutable testimony to that fact.

In those agonizing predawn hours, when the cries of the living mixed with those of the dying, in a place whose walls should only have reverberated with laughter, America was harshly reminded that where its LGBT neighbors are concerned, she has far to go, and is still filled with too much hatred to make the journey of progress.

Across the country today, we will solemnly bear witness to this atrocity, and give our tribute to those dead whose blood calls to us from the Pulse site, to make of their memories a new resolution of vigilance.

Since that horrifying Sunday morning one year ago, homophobia and bigotry have risen ascendant in the United States, led by a man so consumed with a sense of his own superiority, that he has systematically erased all reference of LGBT people from the Executive Mansion.

We may and must still celebrate our lives, for those who died in Orlando would not wish us to shrink back in fear from so doing. But those who died, where their bodies fell, also warn us to keep our eyes and ears open, lest such a tragedy descend upon us again. That, too, is part of our debt to their memory.