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Newspaper Editor Describes Struggle To Heal From Orlando Nightclub Shooting


As 2016 wraps up, we're returning to some of the people we've interviewed on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED over the last year. In June, I went to Orlando to report on the shooting at Pulse Nightclub. It was the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. I met Billy Manes, the editor of Orlando's LGBT newspaper Watermark. And he told me he felt terrified.


SHAPIRO: When's the last time you felt fear like that? Have you ever felt that in your life before?

BILLY MANES: Yes, I was shot by BB guns when I was a 20-something going into gay bars.

SHAPIRO: Out of homophobia?

MANES: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: Really?

MANES: The whole - I don't want to say the F-word, but, yeah, it was said and I was shot from a truck...

SHAPIRO: They called you homophobic names and shot you with a BB gun?


SHAPIRO: And now 20-some years later...

MANES: Right.

SHAPIRO: ...You're afraid again.

MANES: I'm afraid again, yeah.

SHAPIRO: Billy Manes, welcome back to the program. Thanks for joining us.

MANES: Hi, Ari, thanks.

SHAPIRO: Do you still feel that fear that you felt in June?

MANES: I think almost more so.

SHAPIRO: Really?

MANES: I've sort of fed this around a little bit in my office this morning. And we're a lot more careful about ourselves and how we present at this point, which I don't think is a great thing.

SHAPIRO: What does that mean, you say you're more careful about yourselves and how you present?

MANES: Nobody wants to seem too gay, do they? We've had developments since the Pulse shooting that have indicated we may not be in the best graces of the general public.

SHAPIRO: What are you referring to?

MANES: I'm referring to the November 8 election. There's been so much sort of collective good that's going on. And I'm not trying to downplay that. But there is so much licensed hate right now. And I'm hearing it more often than I've ever heard it in my life.

SHAPIRO: We should say that while Trump has made statements that are positive about LGBT rights, a lot of the people he has appointed, his running mate Mike Pence and cabinet officials, have very strongly anti-gay records. Can you give me an example of how that fear, that not wanting to be to showy, plays out in your own life? I mean, are you, like, putting away the more flowery scarf and putting on something more low-key? What are you actually doing? What does that translate to?

MANES: No, I'm doing the opposite of that, actually (laughter). I don't - I mean, if this is the new Wild West, then my role is not the defeatist or the defeated. I fear for my friends. I fear for my friends who are bartenders in gay bars. And they fear for themselves. And some of them have quit their jobs because of this fear.

SHAPIRO: So what do you do then?

MANES: Well, what I do is try and love more, (laughter) I guess. That sounds so flaky. But honestly, my response to my friends who are having rough times with this is it's a generosity. It's still very real here, Ari. Like, I mean, it's really bad, especially post-election when people will scream at you at a gas station.

SHAPIRO: You say that as if it's a routine thing.

MANES: It is.


MANES: Yeah, it's happening here. It's probably happening everywhere, but here is where I am so...

SHAPIRO: Was that something that would happen a year ago, five years ago...

MANES: Nope.

SHAPIRO: ...Or is that just recent, really?

MANES: Nope, just recently.

SHAPIRO: People screaming homophobic epithets.

MANES: Right. So on the other side, though, I mean, we have an LGBTQ alliance that has formed that is helping people find housing. We have two hospitals that have paid off the debts of the 53 people who were injured. There is goodness going on here. But I think everyone is a little scared about identity right now.

SHAPIRO: So it sounds like this event brought out both the best and the worst in people.

MANES: It did.

SHAPIRO: I sort of half wondered if we would talk to you about a city that is moving on. It doesn't...

MANES: Right.

SHAPIRO: ...Sound like things are moving on at all.

MANES: No, they are. They are. I mean, I just think it's the people that are having trouble moving on. It's grief and grief happens in stages. And stages are different for everyone. The city itself has done an amazing job of pulling itself together - and the turnout to all of the events and there are funds that have been set up in this community. Our mayor has really taken charge. There are quilts that have been made for much of this community. And there is a lot of love and respect, but it doesn't mean that we're not scared anymore (laughter).

It's such a strange thing, Ari. It really is. It's a strange feeling because you would think that the rebound from such a terrible situation would be that it would be all love and everybody would be more respectful. But then we had an election in which none of us know where we stand anymore. So I feel like there are a lot of people who wake up on Monday mornings who are exhausted. And I may be one of them.

SHAPIRO: Billy Manes, editor of Watermark, Orlando's LGBT newspaper, thank you for joining us once again and Happy New Year.

MANES: Happy New Year to you. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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