Christopher Andrew Leinonen
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, Drew, as he was known to his friends, died alongside his soulmate, Juan Ramon Guerrero in the act of terrorism that took place at the Pulse nightclub. Drew was a film buff and dedicated mental health counselor, brimming with charisma and sharp wit. He proudly referred to himself as a "gaysian," finding great dignity in his unique identity as both gay and Asian. When Drew was in high school he established the first gay-straight alliance at his school. This inspired a lifelong dedication to activism which undoubtedly had limitless potential before it was so grotesquely snuffed out in this senseless act of violence.
Drew is about my age, so that means we would have been in high school around the same time. I think about who I was in high school, about the people who surrounded me and the rhetoric of the era. I think about how words like "gay" and "fag" were casually thrown around as insults. I think about Ricky Martin and Lance Bass who had to no choice but to remain tortuously closeted for the sake of our delicate sensibilities. I think about all my peers who've come out since we shared those four years of lockered hell and about how immense their burden was when everyone already felt so isolated, so alone, so desperate to fit in, so scared to speak up.
I think about all of that and I know that there was no way that I could've had the strength or courage to do what Drew did when we were that age. We cannot forget how monumental his actions were. Less than 20 years later our perspective has changed because of activists like Drew.
Today, as our congressional representatives sit on the house floor, refusing to move until American gun laws are revisited, I'm focusing on igniting the activism within myself. I'm using my voice to build on the change that activists like Drew have facilitated. For those of you who, like me, have spent a lifetime trying not to step on toes, it's time to be brave, it's time to make some noise. Write to your senators, speak up against evil, it's time to get motivated to do everything we can to restore peace to this planet.