There was a picture that had been shared over and over and over. It was taken at the Legacy Of Love monument in Oak Lawn, which has become a make-shift memorial for the victims in Orlando.
The picture was of a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence consoling a grieving woman. The Sister was cradling the woman’s head, was holding her close.
That picture was incredibly moving, symbolic and extremely powerful. It is also quite meaningful to me.
I am the girl Sister Lawna Jocqui was holding.
I’m one of those people who feels things deeply. When one of us is attacked, we all are.
I was at that monument and spoke at the “Take Back Oak Lawn” rally. I marched in and spoke at the Harvey Milk Day march in 2015. I joined the 1,000 other people Sunday, June 12, at the Resource Center for the vigil for Orlando. I’ve cried until I thought I didn’t have any tears left at the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
This monument is sacred turf.
This has been a particularly difficult week for our community. Emotions and thoughts have been coming at me without end.
I work at Resource Center, and I was asked this week by a member of the media if I was concerned about something happening where I work. I told them we are all aware that we are a potential target, but we refuse to live in fear.
We are doing important work and will not let anything stand in the way.
Being a transgender woman, the past few months have been a non-stop barrage of laws designed to punish us for existing, politicians attacking kids with evil legislation and their own brand of hate speech. It’s been emotionally exhausting being constantly asked what I think about some law, or comment on the latest trans woman to be murdered.
Now, in one horrific night 49 beautiful souls were ripped away from us at a place that is supposed to be a sanctuary.
Their whole lives were ahead of them.
It all became too much.
Tuesday my partner, Katie, came by my work to take me to lunch. I sat in Hunky’s with tears rolling down my cheeks. I just can’t wrap my head around this.
Wednesday, I had a busy morning. I didn’t get lunch until after 1 p.m. and I wasn’t hungry. I just wanted to get out for a while, so I drove to Cedar Springs and parked in the Walgreens parking lot and walked over to the monument.
I stood alone and looked at the stuffed animals, the words of love written in chalk, the candles and the flowers … so many flowers. It was powerful and tragic and it brought to mind the young lives that were lost.
I just sat down and cried, oblivious to what was around me.
I was there for maybe 20 minutes and I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Sister Lawna Jocqui. She knelt beside me and cradled my head in her arms and told me she loved me. I just put my head on her chest and cried. Raw emotion … I just couldn’t contain it.
It was my first emotional breakdown next to a busy intersection and I was so unbelievably grateful for the compassion, strength and love shown to me that afternoon. I had no idea someone had taken a picture, but I’m glad they did. I didn’t find out until I saw it on Facebook later in the evening.
I’ve seen the Sisters at a lot of events. They seem to be everywhere. The world needs more people like them.
Sister Lawna saw someone who was upset and offered comfort and reassurance. So simple, yet so many of us — me included — might shy away from doing it ourselves.
Being on the receiving end of it, I can say: Please, if you see someone in need, reach out. You might just be pulling them back from the brink.
I love my job; I get to help people every day. It’s good work and I often get paid in hugs.
But sometimes even the helpers need help. On Wednesday, I did, and Sister Lawna Jocqui was there. Like an angel.
To Sister Lawna: I am the girl in the picture, and I will never forget your kindness. Thank you for making the world a little less scary, and little more kind. A lot of healing took place on those bricks today.
Dallas is a better place because of you.
Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at lesliemichelle44.wordpress.com
We ARE them
By Sister Lawna JOcqui
DFW Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
I came to drop off flowers at the monument in Oak Lawn, my neighborhood, and there she sat alone on her break from work, hurting and grieving for 49 people I assume she hadn’t met.
We never had to meet them. We are them.
Many of us still live in fear outside of our gayborhoods. We don’t want to hear “FAGGOT!!!” or “TRANNY!!!” while we do the everyday things some take for granted. But we often do hear it. We don’t want to be threatened with violence just for holding our loved one’s hand, or sharing a kiss, just as any other couple would do. We’ve felt safe in our enclaves for decades.
Now, another deranged American man with easy access to an assault rifle — thanks to the NRA and gun lobbies who continuously fill the coffers of politicians in the United States, has come to our home and murdered us. You have various religious leaders talking about the “dangers of homosexuals” and why they feel we’re less human.
It wasn’t a “mass shooting.” It was a “mass murder” of LGBTQA people in the place they should feel safest. It was an execution of innocence and joy. You have violated us in our own home.
It was not ISIS! It was not some form of “radical Islam,” as some talking heads want you to believe. And it was not racially motivated. It was pure hatred for a group of people in a gay nightclub — LGBT people with their friends and families.
Demand change from your city and state’s governing bodies. Ask your state representatives to assist you. No child should have to be afraid of getting gunned down in his or her school. No mother should have to worry about a bullet ripping through her body as she dances with her son on a Saturday night. No spouse or lover should have to use their body to shield bullets from the one they hold dear. No person should be afraid of experiencing a hail of bullets in a church as they worship the god of their choosing.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2016.