content note: violence (orlando gay club shooting), homophobia, islamophobia, racism
“What happened in Orlando is not new, because we, people of color have a history in the US of never mattering. We have a history of enslavement, we have a history of exploitation, we have a history of criminalization, we have a history of violence. And that is what happened today. This attack was years in the making and based off of hundreds and hundreds of years of oppression and violence targeted towards queer and trans people of color.”
i think about violence a lot. violence inflicted by individuals, violence in the name of justice, violence as a means of upholding systems of oppression. i feel aware that violence occurs all the time every day in its many forms. as an involuntary survival technique, i stay numb. but with the news of the 50+ person massacre in orlando — at the gay club, on latinx night — something in me cracked. 80-90% of my friends and chosen family are queer, i have been to gay clubs and bars galore across the US, and for once i could not numb out.
of course i am filled with grief and heartbreak for everyone who was killed. for so many queers, our friends are our community, our foundation, our family. people lost their entire families to this act of violence. simultaneously, i am filled with rage and dread knowing how this loss of queer lives will be exploited for bigotry and state violence. the news stories made me shudder — between paragraphs describing the tragic events were resolutions for increased police presence at pride events and in gayborhoods, and immediate portrayals of the shooter as an ISIS-aligned foreign threat. because an american man with american values wouldn’t commit a mass murder in the name of hate. nevermind that he was american born, an admirer of the nypd, a long-time GS4 employee.
i sobbed periodically throughout the day. didn’t have it in me to pretend like i was okay. found gratitude for my ability to feel. was reminded that the sense of relative safety i experience navigating the world as a queer person is due primarily to my whiteness. was reminded that this kind of sorrow and fear is what black and brown folks live with every day.
i know that while this was an extreme event, LGBTQ+ people of color experience discrimination and violence all the time. i know black and brown trans women of color are murdered with regularity and without note by the media, the general public, and much of the LGBT community. i know that this massacre is just another symptom of the homophobia, racism, and misogyny that is ubiquitous in this country. i know that this kind of violence fuels discrimination, policing, and prisons, and i know that’s true in reverse as well.
i am holding grief and sorrow for the people killed, their loved ones, their community. for those of us who found our homes in queer spaces, and whose sense of safety has been diminished or destroyed. for muslims (and perceived muslims) of all sexualities and genders who will suffer as a result of islamophobia. for the shooter who killed all those people. it takes a life full of misery and self-loathing to cultivate that kind of hate and act on it.
my wish for queers is that we make space to grieve, hold each other in love, and challenge and resist the narratives that others will assign to this tragedy. we are resilient like so many gay, queer, and trans folks who have come before us — shamelessly and unapologetically true to who they were, even when their lives were threatened. hold your people, hold yourself.