I was hanging with my friend Ysha early this morning when the news in Orlando broke.
I teared up and I stayed awake, refreshing my feed, trying to get more info, but the news was still breaking and I knew I was likely to get misinformation based on panicked speculation or pure malicious gossip. All I knew was there was a shooting in a club called Pulse in Orlando, Florida with 20 injured. The situation was on-going with people still being held hostage. I couldn’t find any further details from that. I nervously went to sleep hoping the death toll would be non-existent & injuries would not be fatal, that it wouldn’t be a targeted attack, and that the media wouldn’t willfully engage in lies, whitewashing, unfounded bullshit, manipulation and bigotry. A sick bargain to make, but better than the alternative. I woke up to everything I feared and then some being actualized.
I immediately saw: 50 dead and 53 injured in what the shooter’s father has confirmed was a targeted hate crime, an act of terrorism over initial upset at seeing two men kiss in public. One of the deadliest mass shootings in American history. My heart hurts so much and I am at such a loss. Childishly, I want to think I can’t conceive the motivation for this type of carnage and death but what makes this all hurt more is that I can.
Even though people might say “Don’t politicize a tragedy to push an agenda,” there is already an agenda and it is already deeply political. Ignoring it helps no one, least of all the victims of the attack. Naming our reality helps makes sense of the carnage. We live in a country that weaponizes its hate against LGBTQ+ people often using bastardization of Christian text in a religiously hegemonic culture. We live in a country where people talk about shooting trans women in bathrooms. We live in a country where 40% of homeless and runaway youth identify as LGBTQ+. We live in a country where LGBTQ+ folks of color, specifically trans folk, experience a greater risk of homicide than others in the LGBT community. We live in a country where it is legal to use “Gay/Trans panic” to defend murder in all states except for California. We live in a country where undocumented and refugee LGBTQ+ folks are discriminated against and disproportionately affected by mass deportation and inability to seek asylum and experience sexual violence on the border and in detention centers. And fuck it, I am a queer Afro-Latina woman, a targeted terrorist attack on a Latin night at a gay bar has killed 50 and injured just as much and more in a state where lots of my family and other Caribbean Afro-Latinxs lives. This is goddamn political and personal as hell, don’t you pretend tell me otherwise. Avoiding all of this is deadly.
In the wake of this attack, people are going to try to let power escape responsibility and instead scapegoat and throw Islam under the bus yet again, but I am going to hold on tight to my LGBTQ+ Muslim siblings and remind them again that all the aforementioned violence I named happens in a Christian-established, Christian-majority country, often justified with Christian rhetoric, so don’t even try that shit. I’m going to remind them that the people who probably feel the worst about this is LGBTQ+ Muslim folks. They would not have been magically safe in this tragedy. And given that we don’t yet know the names and identities of the victims, they might not have been. In the words of Jacob Tobia, “Today, it is our obligation as a queer community to remember that islamophobia, homophobia, and transphobia work together.”
The truth is American culture at large, not just fringe terrorists, high on its weaponized patriarchal, homophobic, transphobic standards and violence, is at fault. It espouses and institutionalizes these anti-queer and anti-trans ideologies at every turn. It hates and criminalized any deviation from white, cis, heterocentric sexuality and gender norms. It seeks to destroy and undermine queer and trans bodies, especially those who are femme and of color and deeply challenge said racialized gender and sexuality norms merely by existing. Considering that, it becomes clear that this terrorist act is not senseless or without context. It aligns perfectly with the intentionally calibrated and deadly climate we exist in, that people breed to maintain position & power, to intimidate, shame, ostracize and dehumanize those who do not fit their exclusive norms. This murderous act, in all of its blood-thirsty horror, must be what they wanted, what they think we deserve, as everything points to that conclusion. Every player in this culture of supremacy and hate need to be held accountable and see the ramifications these establishments have on our people. Every player owes us an apology and change.
In the wake of this attack, we’re also likely going to hear Gay Inc talk about politics of visibility and openness as being ubiquitous with pride and justice, as being our only answer and way to respond to the violence. With all due respect, fuck that. If you are LGBTQ+ & feel terrorized or afraid, like you need to hide and heal for however long you need, you’re valid as well. Living openly so we can get picked off is no way to live not because we should hide or feel ashamed or refuse to live authentically (as we will continue to do, with grace, in power), but because we deserve support and protection when we live our truth. We deserve to demand and ask: Where is our safety? This country and its politicking leave us, especially the most vulnerable of us, to the dogs, while the pride parades and homophobic and transphobic institutions march on, on our backs, in our blood. Where is our justice and liberation and peace that grants us safe passage in the light? This culture makes the closet the safest place to be and that isn’t our fault. It is theirs. They owe it to us to fix this. They owe it to the yet unnamed victims of this tragedy.
To my Queer and trans fam, take care of yourself and grieve in whatever ways that feel best and safest for you at this time, whether privately or out loud. Let’s get together to talk or sit in silence, to mourn and cry or dance to merengue y bachata in memory. Please feel free to get a hold of me. I’m here to lend an ear or a shoulder or to help set some things on fire. I love you so much, please know that.
And to the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, I am so, so sorry this happened to you. I am so, so sorry that the shooter’s ugliness ended your lives, that this world doesn’t yet know how to honor and love and hold and respect us. Those of us here on earth will not forget this, we will not forget you. And when the time after mourning comes we will fight and rage in your names, after taking this time to honor you and your families we will fight for the overdue justice you deserved long before this tragedy.
In love and power,