I wrote this on Friday, but it was Pride weekend and I decided to go (more on that in a separate post) so I couldn’t add it here until now. I have to admit, it feels good to be writing again.
Tragedy is everywhere. You go to bed one night and you wake up. It’s one of those mornings that are hard to get out of bed. You wake up and immediately grab your phone. Open up facebook and check your notifications. Feel a little bit of shame that the first thing you do when you wake up is check your phone, but then again, you aren’t really a morning person. You walk into the bathroom, still out of it, still scrolling your newsfeed.
Then it hits you.
There was a mass shooting. At least 19 people are dead. That’s what the initial reports say. Someone shot at least 19 queers at a gay bar in Orlando. It hits you. Shock. Grief. Anger. You don’t have cable and you could turn on the radio, but you don’t. You keep scrolling through facebook. More people are waking up. More people are finding out.
More anger. More grief. For a few days, this is acceptable. After that, you’re expected to return to your regularly scheduled programming. You are not supposed to remain angry. You are not supposed to call for riots.
More reports. 50 are dead. A few days later, the final death toll is 49. 49 people. 49 people looking for love, for community, for a night out of fun, and now their lives are over in a flash of bullets.
You return back to work, thankful that you’ve at least had a few days off to try to deal with the magnitude of this. You have drag performer friends that were at Pulse. You’ve seen the footage live. The summer air is wet, hot, waiting to push you over the ledge. You swear you can smell gunpowder everywhere.
How did we get to this point? We haven’t even gone a full year with marriage equality. You remember waking up that day and checking facebook. You wake up and you check facebook and find out another trans person was brutally murdered. You wake up and find out that House Bill 2 passed in North Carolina, making it illegal for trans people to use the proper restroom.
You wake up and find they are passing similar laws all over. You remember the last four years of your life. Open discrimination, hostility. Being afraid to hold your lover’s hand in public. Being afraid on buses. Going out in public after your assault is an act of bravery. Because you’ve always known that you need to enjoy life as much as you can before a hateful bastard takes your life away.
At work, you listen to NPR with a client. You sit there increasingly angry as straight people analyse it all day long. You notice every time they say gay when they mean the entire community. It’s as if all of your skin has been burned off. This would bother you before, but now it hasn’t even been two days, and all you can hear is gay, and what they mean is white gays and lesbians. They do not mean bisexuals, they do not mean trans people, and they sure as hell do not mean trans people of color, especially latinx trans people of color, the ones predominantly targeted at Pulse.
You don’t even get the space necessary to bury your dead. You wonder if you should go to Pride. You read about increased security and an increase in police. Does anyone else find this ironic? Have we completely lost our history in a corporate sponsored booze fest that is supposed to be commemorating Stonewall, where we fought actual cops? The cops are not there to protect us, I can tell you that.
How did we get to this point? The people analysing ask out loud. Passing housing discrimination. Passing bathroom bills. Making it legal to fire a queer person. Take away our safe spaces. Make us afraid to hold hands in public. And guns. Do not forget the guns.
You remember the first gay bar you really went to. It felt like freedom and safety and a place to come and be safe. You could drink and dance with someone and maybe hold hands. You could go to whatever bathroom you wanted. And you remember the hateful people. You remember the man who pulled a gun on you. You’d been out for two weeks. Your life pauses and you are so aware of how it can end. Cops circle the bar every night but you go.
You go and you participate and you write about it and you get sick of writing about it. You get sick of knowing that in a few weeks, the conversation will end, and people will go back to their lives. You are left trying to bury the dead. People will even ask you, you’re still upset about that?
That’s how we got here.