I’ve been struggling for words for days and still hardly know where to begin. Last Sunday morning’s news absolutely crushed me. Forty-nine innocent people, peacefully enjoying their lives, murdered. Many more injured. Thousands of loved ones’ lives changed forever. That sinking feeling of “it could have been us.”
They flew the pride flag at half-staff on top of the Space Needle that afternoon. I cried when I saw it.
If you’ve never been to a gay club, here’s what it looks like: You go out with friends. You pay five or ten dollars to get in, rolling your eyes at the idea of spending money for the privilege of buying overpriced drinks. You buy a couple of them anyway. You dance to some Top 40 song – fun and catchy, in spite of the hackneyed lyrics. You talk with your friends. You laugh. At the end of the night, you go home, chug a glass of water, and still wake up with a bit of a headache.
Whoever you are, whatever your orientation or your presentation, you feel safe. I’m hardly a big partier – the kind of person who never imagined myself enjoying a nightclub – and yet there’s still a feeling of sanctuary there. For many queer people, it’s one of the few places we can be completely comfortable as ourselves.
I haven’t been able to take my mind off it all week. It’s the collision of so many awful trends in the world right now. Mass shootings. Homophobia. Islamophobia. Hate.
At the same time, in a strange way, it made me feel validated in our decision to travel to Turkey. If you’ve been following along, you know we hemmed and hawed about whether we wanted to visit in light of the current unrest and threat of terrorism. Though we were both originally leaning toward shortening our trip in some way, we ultimately decided to continue as planned.
Yes, there is some danger here. Just last week, an attack on a police bus in Istanbul killed eleven people. The U.S. State Department has maintained its travel warnings for the area. Future attacks are likely to target tourist areas. The LGBTQ community is under threat, too, with hardliner groups pledging to do “what is necessary” “to prevent faggots from marching” in this month’s upcoming Istanbul Pride parade.
But the truth is that we’re not perfectly safe at home, either. Hate is not a regional phenomenon. Our lives – whether at home in the Northwest, driving ten thousand miles in a van, or touring the Hagia Sophia – are not without risk.
We could give into fear. We could stay home. We could isolate ourselves. We could see every travel warning as reason to not pursue our dreams. At some point, should the violence escalate, that might even be the rational decision.
Or, we could go on traveling. We could remember that we live in the most peaceful time in world history. We could learn new things about the world. We could work on breaking down prejudices – ours and others’. We could strive to better understand things from other people’s perspectives. We could spread love, respect, and kindness.
We arrived in Cappadocia on Wednesday night. The scenery is beautiful. The history is fascinating. The people are warm and friendly.
Walking around the visitor-friendly town of Göreme – with its gift shop-lined streets and abundance of English speakers – it’s clear that tourism has been decimated here. It should be the busy season, but we’re practically the only people staying in our beautiful hotel. The streets are calm. The restaurants are quiet. Just a few hundred kilometers away is the Syrian border – surely a stark contrast to the peace of this beautiful place.
We know there’s risk. We know there’s turmoil. We’re not oblivious.
But we couldn’t be happier to be here.