Mycroft Masada is a faith leader who moved to the Washington DC area from hir lifelong home of Boston MA in January 2014; a founding member of TransFaith’s National Council, steering committee member of TransEpiscopal, and former board member of Congregation Am Tikva. Mycroft is called to work for social justice at the intersections of faith, LGBTQI+ and fat communities, and is a writer and artist. Zie is partnered with Julia McCrossin, the mas(s)culine fatshion blogger, and they co-parent a dogter.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Gaithersburg event re: Pulse shooting -- my prose piece

Tonight we held an event here in Gaithersburg MD recognizing the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando FL -- here is my main post about it. This post is the prose piece I wrote for the event and read at it:

My name is Mycroft Masada, and I am a faith leader.

I live here in Gaithersburg with my family; this is my partner Julia’s hometown, I moved here two years ago after a lifetime in Boston.  I am a transgender person of faith, and I do trans advocacy work – locally, with a small group of local leaders; and nationally, with an organization called TransFaith.
           
And primarily, I bring questions.  Why are we here?  Tonight is about Orlando, but it is also about much more – it has to be.  We have to “think globally, act locally”.  We have to become more in solidarity with our siblings in Orlando and nationwide, and beyond – but we also have to question ourselves, and each other.

Because we are not Orlando, not most of us.  We are Gaithersburg, and neighboring towns, and Montgomery County, and Maryland.  Some of us have closer connections to what happened in Orlando and since, some of us live at those intersections; many of us don’t.

We do live in one of the most diverse cities and counties in the country.  We have many in our community who are Latinx, Black, otherwise people of color, Muslim, LGBTQI+.  We have a statewide LGBTQ organization, based in Baltimore.  We have LGBT rights laws – including trans rights laws since 2007 / 2014 (county / state).  We have some LGBTQ organizing in MoCo – mostly around youth.  We have some LGBTQ-welcoming faith communities.  We even have a very few trans-specific things – like Maryland Trans* Unity.  

But do we have a community?  A local community?  An intersectional community?

We have no Montgomery County or Gaithersburg LGBTQ organizations, no county or city Pride Month or other LGBTQ calendar events.  This is the 18th day of Pride Month 2016, and this vigil is going to be our only Pride event!  How can that be?  Montgomery College used to host a Pride, and it may again – how can we support that?  We shouldn’t have to go to Frederick, or Baltimore, or DC to find community – and not everyone can.  We have a county Transgender Day Of Remembrance, or TDOR.  But Zella Ziona and Keyonna Blakeney’s names are included – and they are black trans women in their twenties who were murdered right here in Gaithersburg in October and in Rockville in April.  What does that mean?  There was a community event inspired by Zella and Keyonna in Rockville in April – but it was organized by communities in DC and Baltimore.  

I’m very privileged, and I’m still struggling in some ways.  What is the struggle of those who are less privileged?  Our community members, our neighbors, our closer connections.
           
There have been many loving responses to Orlando – and also many hateful and otherwise harmful ones.  Too many of them from “allies” -- people who do or should know better.  And there has been a lot of silence – many people have not responded at all.

How are we responding to all of this?

How are we responding to people who may say “LGBT”, and maybe even “Q”, but only talk about gay and lesbian people and other men and women?  Who don’t talk about bisexual, trans and queer people, intersex and asexual people, and the rest of the infinite sex / gender / sexuality spectrum.  How are we responding to racism – against Latinx people, Black people, other people of color?  How are we responding to Islamophobia?  To mental illness.  To domestic violence.  To the conversation about guns.  To classism, ableism, fatphobia and so much more.    

And how are we being intersectional in our responses?  Seeing and sharing how these identities and oppressions intersect -- which they always do.  Centering those who live at the most challenging intersections.  Giving them more space to speak.  Recognizing and using our own privilege.

ElieWiesel taught us that the opposite of love isn’t hate, but indifference.  We have a lot of love in this country, this state, this county, this city.  But we also have a lot of hate, and a great deal of indifference.

May tonight inspire us to take meaningful action towards  social justice – locally, and far beyond.

Amen.

Gaithersburg event re: Pulse shooting -- Gretchen Wyrick prose piece

Tonight we held an event here in Gaithersburg MD recognizing the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando FL -- here is my main post about it. This post is the prose piece Gretchen Wyrick wrote for the event and read at it (and it is fairly detailed, so please use your best judgement around if / when / how long to read it):

Orlando Shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida

On June 12, 2016 at around 2:00 am the United States experienced the deadliest mass shooting in its history as a gunman entered the crowded gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida. He headed towards the main bar.

Armed with an assault rifle, a hand gun, and large amounts of ammunition, the gunman opened fire on the 300 plus patrons and employees of the club. He moved without words across the dance floor; a dark shadow firing his weapon.

Gun fire replaced the blaring music and glass fell shattering all over the floor. Club goers screamed and tried to run for safety.

At 2:09 am the nightclub took to Facebook posting “Everyone get out of Pulse and keep running.”

Angel Colon said “We just grabbed each other. We started running.” Angel was shot several times and fell to the ground.  He watched as the gunman shot the woman next to him and then began shooting the other people already lying on the floor.

People crawled for cover and rushed towards the doors.

Ray Rivera, a DJ at the club, watched as people frantically darted out from the club. A man and a woman dashed to hide under his DJ booth. The man took off as soon as there was a break in the shooting; Ray pushed the woman and said, “Let’s go,” heading for the door.

Loud music still blared from the speakers.

Samuel Maldonado was working in the club’s courtyard when gunshots rang out and the crowd began to run from inside Pulse.  As the gunman approached the courtyard Samuel hid under a table. A woman close to Samuel was screaming and crying. He jumped on top of her, covering her mouth as the gunman moved
closer. The gunman proceeded to reload his weapon and turned his sights back towards the club. The shooting resumed.

An off duty officer working at the club responded to the shots and gun fire was exchanged.

As additional officers arrived, a gun battle ensued and the gunman retreated back inside the club to a bathroom taking several hostages with him.

Norman Casiano crawled into a bathroom and wedged himself into a stall crammed with at least a dozen other people. He prayed “Please don’t let this be where I go.” A dark figure loomed outside the stall door; Norman froze, certain the gunman was just inches away. Norman heard people pleading “Please, please, please don’t shoot” “Please don’t do this. Let us go,” but the gunman continued to open fire.

Trapped patrons were helpless, shocked, and scared. They desperately called police and texted friends and family for help.

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice found shelter in one of the bathrooms and texted his mom:

Mommy I love you
In the club they shooting
Trapd in the bathroom
Call police
Im gonna die

His mother, Mina Justice, replied trying the reassure her son:

Calling them now
U still there?
Answer your phone
Call me.
Call me.

Unknown to Mina, Eddie’s mother, the gunman had just peppered the bathroom stalls with gun shots.

All around Patience Carter, unanswered cell phones chirped. Patience took cover in one the bathrooms stalls as the gunman stood right outside. She could hear him talking; he sounded deranged. His feet were visible just beyond the stall door. After what felt like an eternity Patience heard three large blasts and officers telling people to move away from the walls.

At around 5 am, after a three hour standoff between the gunman and Orlando police, the SWAT team used an armored vehicle, construction equipment, and explosives to breach the club walls allowing hostages to flee. Police also removed an air conditioner unit guiding patrons to crawl out to safety.

The gunman then exited through one of the holes engaging in a shootout with police resulting in his death.

As the police entered the horrific scene inside the nightclub they asked survivors to raise their hands, many who had been injured were carried outside by the officers. Pools of blood covered the floor.

39 people were pronounced dead at the scene and 11 more after being transported to the hospital. 53 people were wounded and taken nearby for medical treatment.

Among the victims were a barista, an accountant, a recent high school grad, a mother, a son, and a best friend.

This was truly an act of hate, a crime against a community. This massacre has already been defined as one of the nation’s worst terror attacks.

In the wake of such a devastating tragedy my thoughts are with the victims, their families, and friends. Let us be a light for them in this a dark time, for darkness cannot live in the light.

Gaithersburg MD event re: Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando FL

The City’s photo of their Concert Pavilion – partly because I was verklempt enough at the event that I had a junior moment about taking photos.  But I think at least one attendee captured it on their phone. 

Tonight we held a community event here in Gaithersburg to recognize and start to process the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando – our official title was LGBTQ Vigil And Recognition of Pulse Massacre (and here is the Facebook event).

This may well be the only Orlando event in this city, which is my partner Julia’s hometown and our current home (I moved here two and a half years ago after a lifetime in Boston).  The lead organizer and MC was Jenny Armour, in partnership with some of her City Hall co-workers and others; Julia became one of the part-time Greeters at our city hall a few months ago.  The event was held at City Hall – the city was not an official sponsor, but they provided us with the Concert Pavilion including the sound system, and through a related connection we had two uniformed police officers attend.

One of the most significant things about the event was that it was led and largely attended by people of color, and primarily Latinx people.  While attendance was quite small -- mainly due to scheduling conflicts and the other usual issues -- it was supportive and diverse (including age), and we were joined by a young family that happened to be passing through and stopped to inquire about what was happening; and we certainly had many people who were there in spirit -- and hope to have many more through our sharing about the event and the rest of the local community work.  Too, Julia and I were blessed to have some friends from our local faith and fat communities join us.  Also, the weather was excellent -- if anything, even better than shown in the photo.  

Julia and I brought the battery-operated tea light 'candles' from the Montgomery County MD Trans(gender) Day of Remembrance (#MCMDTDOR) and lined the front edge of the stage with 49 of them -- one for each victim.  This worked out well even though it was daylight even at the very end of our gathering (it's almost the longest day of the year); again, sorry I didn't get any photos, but I was verklempt etc.

We opened the evening with Jenny giving a welcome.

Michelle sang the National Anthem (The Star Spangled Banner).

Gretchen Wyrick read her prose piece about what happened at Pulse in the very early morning of Sunday June 12th -- and it is fairly detailed, so please use your very best judgement around if, when and how long to read it.  
(And it was only through listening to her that I realized that part of my connection to the Orlando events is that my paternal grandparents died along with almost 500 others in the fire at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Boston in 1942 (which was largely the result of the club owner conspiring with the city in ways that that made a fire very likely and very lethal; click here to read my most recent post about it.)
  • “On June 12, 2016 at around 2:00 am the United States experienced the deadliest mass shooting in its history as a gunman entered the crowded gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida.”
Leslie read the names of the 49 people who were murdered that night.

Jenny read Jameson Fitzpatrick’s poem “A Poem For Pulse” – he posted in on Facebook just hours after the shooting and as a response to that news; she read a version she edited for this evening.
  • “Last night, I went to a gay bar
  • with a man I love a little.
  • After dinner, we had a drink.” 
Rob and Leslie sang along with Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day”.

Keith Pumphrey read Mark Rikerby’s 2008 poem “How We Survive.”
  • “If we are fortunate,
  • we are given a warning.
  • If not…" 
I shared some thoughts about how the events in Orlando and the responses to them can help us think about our local community and commitment to social justice.
  • “And primarily, I bring questions.  Why are we here?  Tonight is about Orlando, but it is also about much more – it has to be.”
Rob and Leslie sang Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love”, including Mary Lambert’s “She Keeps Me Warm” chorus.

Julie Lyst, Jenny’s partner, shared some words. 

Jenny gave thanks and some final thoughts.

And then, especially as it was almost the longest day of the year, we were able to spend some informal time with each other before we all parted.  (Though Julia and I couldn’t stay as long as we might have liked, as we needed to get home to our bossy dogter – we could have brought her, especially as we walk her there pretty often, and maybe we should have.) 

Thanks very much, everyone!  It was good to discover some more local LGBTQ+ and allied community members, and I look forward to further connection.  

For more about the aftermath of Pulse, from a Florida-led national perspective, visit WeAreOrlando.org.