NAME: Marina Winther
HOMETOWN: Merritt Island Florida
TITLE: Storyteller at Blackbird
I awoke Sunday morning to learn of a shooting. A shooting that became abruptly real to me. This tragedy took place in a city I used to live. In a place I used to go. Pulse in Orlando.
James and I met as teenagers in Orlando, and he took me to Pulse for the very first time when I was 19 and not yet aware of my sexuality. It was exactly as he described. Loving. Welcoming. Family. It was how I wanted to live.
Sunday's feelings spiraled between sadness, confusion, anger, and fear. A fear that I have been quite privileged to never have felt before. Of my safety. Realizing that something like this could happen anywhere. This could have been any of my sanctuaries. Pony. Metropolitan. The Wild Rose. Macri Park.
This debilitating fear has been tough to shake. A feeling of violation. Since realizing I was gay I have done my best to live openly, honestly, and now I realize - proudly. Someone hit my community - OUR community - at a piece of our identity and being.
It's not just about safety of life - it's being afraid for others who are not in a place to live openly and freely. That someone has perpetuated a fear of coming out and having to face such repercussions. That it has now become that more difficult to tell someone, "it gets better".
One tragedy can put forth a lot more good and strength in people than before. My fears were proven wrong by Sunday afternoon. The LGBT community rallied gracefully. I saw hundreds of people line up to donate blood. I saw counsellors offer their services pro bono for those in need. I saw a friend of mine come out to a friend to end her fears. Flowers and candles lit in tribute outside LGBT bars and centers. Seattle's Cal Anderson was packed with beautiful support, and as I write this hundreds of people are standing in front of The Stonewall Inn in New York.
At times like these I feel it's important that we feel Pride for who we are.
NAME: James Gillespie
HOMETOWN: Orlando Florida
TITLE: (former) Head Witch at Blackbird
There were no strangers at Pulse. Only love. Only friendship. Only hundreds of people joining together in a place that was safe for people like them. Like me. Coming to terms with being gay in The South ..., was made so much easier by Pulse and the community it built, encouraged and sustained with a term I don't think I've ever fully understood before today: Pride.
As my first project back here at Blackbird I'd like to give back to this beautiful community. Pulse is a fragrance of solidarity, memory, and tribute. Proceeds from this limited run will go to the Zebra Coalition who have worked with The Center for fajksdhg in Central Florida.
Let this incense burn for those are affected by this tragedy. Let it burn for comfort and strength. Let it burn as a reminder that in these dark times - there is still a light to be seen.
- Marina Winther