Ed. note: I started this fairly soon after the shooting, but it’s taken me some time to put my thoughts in some kind of order. This is still pretty stream-of-conscious, free-flowing, but I feel the need to get it out there. So, my apologies that it’s not quite as polished as my normal posts. I’m still pretty raw.
“I keep reading about how the queer community is strong and resilient and will not be defeated. This is all true, but we are also human beings who feel a gamut of emotions, ranging from fear to sorrow to rage. Some people have responded to the tragedy in Orlando by seeking out their communities, taking comfort in being with people who know without words what they’re feeling. Others, bunker down, retreating to mourn on their own.
I just want to say there’s no wrong way of processing what’s happened. There’s no wrong way of responding. As Pride festivities occur all around the country, if you need to go to be with your community, go! If you’re afraid and prefer to stay home, that is fine, too!
We do not have to pretend we are not afraid, angry, hurt, grieving, or any other range of emotions. Feel what you feel, and get through this however best you can.
Most of all, take care of yourself. If the news is stressing you out, walk away from social media. Take a bath or read a book or cuddle with a furry friend (or non-furry one).
We are not obligated to be anyone’s superhero.”
I wrote this on Facebook yesterday afternoon, and I wanted to expand upon it in a proper post. By now, you’ve probably all heard about the horrific shooting at an Orlando queer nightclub (Pulse Nightclub) and read several hot takes on it, both from within the community and from without. Two constant themes emerged from all the pieces and the videos. One was that love will overcome hate and the other was that we mustn’t let fear take us over. I want to address both, starting with the latter.
it’s a peculiar conceit of our society that we scoff at people who show any doubt. We’re supposed to be confident, self-assured, and fearless in the face of danger. It’s doubly so when you’re a member of a minority group because you have to be strong to deal with the bullshit that comes with the territory. In the case of queer folks, we are excruciatingly aware that there are members of society who disapprove of our lifestyle at best and hate us at worst. Some of us are able to pass because we don’t look traditionally queer, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know that the minute we identify as queer (be it verbally or by being physical with a member of the same gender in public), we put ourselves in harm’s way. For many members of the queer family, they have to face hostility every damn day of their lives. We are strong because we have to be, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t afraid. Hell, it’s only natural to feel fear in the face of violent hatred. It’s disconcerting to me that we aren’t allowed to express abject terror that we may be killed by some homophobic lunatic with an AR-15, but we must keep our chins up and stay strong.
Pride festivities are happening all over the country. Many queers have vowed to attend in order to not let terrorism win. I have no problem with that, and I admire people who have that much courage. I am not one of them. I am an anxious, fearful person in general, though I’m able to hide it fairly well, and some days, it’s hard enough to make myself go to the supermarket, let alone make a stance on something this big. I’m a written words person. The best I can do is type a post or ten on how I feel about what happened in Orlando–if I can figure it out myself. My thoughts are jumbled, so I can’t promise that this will be coherent. I want to get out all my emotions–the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here we go.
I hate that I live in a society that values guns more than it does people. Every fucking time a tragedy like this happens, I have to listen to the politicians spout the same tired platitudes because the NRA has a stranglehold on the conversation, as it were, about gun control. Gun enthusiasts shout 2nd Amendment until they’re blue in the face, spouting nonsense about our forefathers, the Constitution can’t be changed, all the while clinging tightly to their stockpile of weaponry. It doesn’t matter that our forefathers were talking about muskets and a well-regulated militia or that the 2nd Amendment is changeable because it’s right there in the fucking name. It’s an amendment. Which means it was added. Which means it can be taken away or at the very least, changed.
I am angry that many of the people spouting platitudes about love and thoughts and prayers are often the same people who have fomented hatred against queer people in the first place. We’re ‘abominations’ and going to hell according to many religious Americans–it’s one thing conservative Christians and Muslims have in common. We have pastors who are praising the shootings in Orlando, saying the victims got what they deserve because they are sodomites–and worse. We have
imams religious clerics saying we should kill gays ‘out of compassion. We have Ted Cruz, a GOP presidential candidate at the time, who attended a rally with a ‘kill the gays’ pastor and had to be pressed into admitting he probably shouldn’t have done that. Not because he doesn’t believe that queers are terrible people who are oppressing Christians–he literally said queers are leading a jihad against traditional marriage–but because he was catching flak for it. We have a religious right who have been exporting their brand of hate to Africa–with dire results. You don’t GET to offer condolences if you’re someone who’s contributed to the hate. You just don’t.
I also hate the more genteel versions of the above. “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” You can’t separate the queerness from a person, so if you hate it, you hate the person as well. When marriage equality was being debated, the antis were aggrieved because some LGBTQ folk had the audacity to clap back at them. “Why can’t they just be civil?”, these antis moaned, acting as if they were the victims. It’s hard to be civil when someone is debating your humanity and thinks you’re a second class citizen. No matter how they wrap their ugly rhetoric in pretty words, the point remains that they wanted to deny us the same rights they have themselves. There isn’t anything fucking civil about that.
I’m grateful for the support and love that has been pouring out towards my community. Across the nation as well as around the world. Thousands of people stood in line for hours under the hot Orlando sun in order to donate blood (many gay men still aren’t allowed to give–which is ludicrous). Rainbow symbols were lit up, from Minneapolis to San Francisco to New York to the White House. Cities around the world did the same. Sydney, Tel Aviv, Paris, Wellington (New Zealand), and Brussels, to name a few. There have been vigils in London, across Canada, and all around the world (including Pakistan). It’s been heartwarming to know that so many around the world feel for us.
I’m pissed that some conservatives have tried to say that this wasn’t an attack on queer people. Some, like the asshole governor of Florida, can’t even bring themselves to mention queer people, let alone acknowledge that the queer community was the target of this hatred. Why? Because if they did that, they’d have to think about the fact that they’ve been contributing to the hate. It’s much easier for them to blame ‘the Muslims’ (at least until it became pretty obvious he has no actual ties to ISIS and is more likely a self-hating gay man) than to admit they’ve contributed to the mentality that made it thinkable for the shooter to kill 49 queer folks. Also, well-meaning liberals who say this is an attack on everyone–stop it. It’s not. It was an attack specifically on queer people, and it’s irritating that you’re trying to hone in on the action here, as it were. I understand the sentiment, that we are all one, but it’s bullshit. You can hold the hand of the person you love without fear of being attacked, and you cannot possibly understand how difficult it is to not have that same right–or the right to even talk about being queer without fear of reprisal. Support us and listen to us and grieve with us, but understand that this is not an attack on you.
While we’re at it, I’m furious that even some white queers aren’t emphasizing that this is specifically an attack on queer Latinos/Latinas. Whether or not that was intentional, it’s true. It was Latin Night at the Pulse, and most of the victims were Latinx. The killer tried to spare black people (he didn’t do a good job of it) because he felt they had suffered enough, but he apparently didn’t have the same sympathy for Latinx folks. Eighty percent of queer folks killed in 2014 were POC, so when we talk about intersectionality, we must acknowledge that the most vulnerable of the vulnerable are people like those who died in the Pulse. To put it plainly, if you’re a queer person of color, you have a much greater chance of enduring violence than if you’re white. I don’t want this whitewashed as situations like these often are. When Dylann Roof murdered nine black churchgoers (shooting a tenth, but that victim survived), some conservative Christians tried to claim that it was an attack on Christianity. It wasn’t. It was an attack on black people by an asshole who wanted to start a race war. It’s extremely important when people of color are murdered not to erase their ethnicity from the equation.
While we’re at it, I’m pissed at Republicans for trying to make this about ‘radical Islam terror’. After hearing the news, I immediately thought, “Which side is the Republicans going to be on?” Because, you see, they hate Muslims and queers with fierce veracity. Which of their bigotries would win out? I guess we ‘won’ the lottery because Republicans really, really, really fucking hate Muslims. They’ll claim queers as their own while holding their collective noses if it means being able to take another jab at Muslims. As a non-religious person, I don’t fear Muslims any more or less than I do Christians. The things the shooter’s father said about queers is exactly what Christians have been saying about us, and more vocally, for decades. I am not a big fan of religion in general, but I’m not going to pretend that one is uniquely homophobic because it’s simply not true. Besides, it appears as if the shooter was using his religion as an excuse for his hatred–as it so often happens. It was the homophobia that he imbibed from both his cultures which seemed to have spurred him to do what he did.
I’m tired of hearing about ‘love wins’ and how love is bigger than hate. It ignores the fact that there is so much hatred out there, and we must address that hate. Sam Bee gave a great response to the shootings, saying, “Love does not win until we love each other enough to fix our fucking problems.” In other words, stop talking about love and start doing something about it. As an aside, Trevor Noah had a really good response as well. As Trevor noted, PBO has hosted 12 state dinners but has given 16 shooting responses. PBO sounded so weary and resigned during his address to the family members of the Orlando shooting, and while I understand it, it was disheartening to see. Trevor points out that if we know something is a problem, we should do something to fix it. When we realized after 9/11 that people could use planes as weapons, we tightened up airport security*. The yahoos who say, “Well, cars kill people. Should we just ban cars?” No, but we can and do regulate the fuck out of them. You have to pass two tests after taking a class to get your license. If you break the rules related to driving, you get fined or arrested. We acknowledge that cars are potentially dangerous, and we treat them accordingly. Another canard–laws won’t stop criminals from having guns. Maybe not, but it can make it a hell of a lot harder to get them. We don’t say ‘why bother’ to laws about other serious issues–sit down, libertarians, I’m not talking to you right now–but when it comes to guns, suddenly, we’re not allowed to do anything about them.
I’m also sick and fucking tired of gun enthusiasts sniping about semantics as if it matters whether the shooter could kill a hundred people in ten minutes or fifty. Look. I’ll learn the lingo (such as magazine vs. clip and assault rifle vs. semi-automatic) if you do the following: Stop saying that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Yes, it’s true, but guns make it so much fucking easier. It’s MUCH harder to kill 49 people with a knife or a car or a spoon. Try to put yourself in OUR shoes as well. I don’t feel safer knowing that there are people concealing and carrying; I feel more at risk. I don’t want to live a life in fear, and I don’t think it makes you more of a man to always be locked and loaded. In fact, I think it takes more courage to be gun-free knowing that there are irrational and angry people around you who are carrying. I’m tired of Dems bending until the point of breaking on this topic, so much so that the idea of background checks and closing a loophole so people at gun shows can’t just walk away with an armful of semi-automatic assault rifles without so much as boo said in their direction is considered taboo to even talk about. What makes me even madder is that 92% of Americans, including 87% of Republicans, agree that more prospective gun buyers should have their background checked, and, yet, this baby step is continually blocked by Republicans in Congress!
I’m cautiously optimistic that maybe this time, just maybe, this is the fucking turning point. Sen. Chris Murphy from Connecticut (you know, where Sandy Hook happened), filibustered for nearly fifteen hours and finally got the Republicans to agree to a vote on universal background checks and better terrorist watch lists. Both the senators from Minnesota, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, have been out in front on this issue, and I’m proud they are from my state. The senators and representatives from Connecticut have been very vocal in voicing their disapproval with business as usual when it comes to gun control, and Rep. Jim Himes was one of the House Democrats who left during the ‘moment of silence’ for the Orlando victims. He tweeted that he would not attend one more moment of silence because it mocks the victims.
I will not attend one more”Moment of Silence” on the Floor. Our silence does not honor the victims, it mocks them. pic.twitter.com/VWWdOkliWN
— Jim Himes (@jahimes) June 13, 2016
Is it enough? Hell, no. Is it a start? Yes, it is. Here’s Hasan Minhaj from the Daily Show ripping apart Congress’s inability and unwillingness to do anything on the issue–right in front of their faces. The whole bit is good, but his righteous rant starts around the 18:18 mark.
Conan talked about it in his show, for fuck’s sake, noting that he tries really hard to keep politics out of his show, but he just couldn’t do it this time. Have we reached the ‘fuck, we’ve had enough!’ point? I don’t know, but I feel something different in the air. On the other hand, it’s been a week since the shooting, and I fear that the horror will fade from the collective memories–until the next time it happens.
I don’t have any neat, summing up words for you. I’m not going to tell you that everything will be OK. I hate platitudes as I may have mentioned a time or twenty, and I’m frankly pretty sick and tired of ‘love wins’. Too often, those platitudes are substitutes for actually doing anything. I appreciate the support, but I also call on my allies to call out homophobia when they hear it, donate to the Pulse victims if you can (their gofundme is right here), and to let your queer friends know that you are a safe place. Let’s do everything we can to ensure that a massacre like this doesn’t happen again.
*We can debate whether they work or not, but we at least did it.