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One Queer's Reaction to the Pulse Nightclub Shooting in Orlando
When it comes to homophobia and queerphobia, I have more or less lived in a bubble of privilege. I grew up with an openly gay aunt and her brother (my father) who had a zero tolerance policy for homophobia. My mother was best friends with my aunt in high school, and later defended her against homophobic family members who talked about her behind her back. I had the privilege of growing up knowing what a healthy lesbian relationship was, what allyship was, and what solidarity was.
So when I realized I was bi, it was no big deal to me. I simply checked all the boxes that meant being bisexual, and I was happy to finally have a label. When I came out I did so gradually, as my self-awareness grew, and with little fanfare. I came out as bisexual to my friends first, then my gay aunt, then my brother and my mother and my father. Not once was I derided, ostracized, or criticized. The most negative feedback I received (I wouldn't even call it negative persay) was some confusion as to how much I liked girls vs boys and what my experience of bisexuality was (but every bi or pansexual person experiences these questions).
I heard people around me say homophobic things sometimes, and I would challenge them, but it never really felt like they were talking about me, because I knew my worth and I knew I could never be defined by ignorant slurs. I continued living my life, and easily found queer community in the big city. I dated and slept around freely, with people of all kinds of genders, and no one expected anything of me. Nobody scrutinized me, and I was thankful for that.
Now, in 2016, I am in a lesbian relationship with a girlfriend I adore, who fled her country as a refugee to escape persecution from her community for being openly lesbian (being agender and androgynous, she could never hide that she was gay). Now, I hear legislature coming from state after state in America to stop trans people from using bathrooms. For the past several years, I have heard story after story of trans women of colour being murdered, violently and horribly. It has never been clearer to me that it really is dangerous to be queer; no more so than if you are black, indigenous, latinx, and/or trans.
I have been trying to sort out my feelings since the shooting, but I only feel an overwhelming sadness, a desperation, and an increasing tiredness that looms larger and larger with each passing year that I am openly gay and awake and witnessing all of this shit. I witness the pain of qpoc in my community, and it breaks my fucking heart. Specifically, Pulse Night Club was targeted for its large, queer latinx community. This is an important motive in the shooting that is not being focused on; not only did the shooter choose Pulse because it was queer, but because it was a safe place for latinx lgbtqia people.
It fills me with rage that being a queer person of colour means there is no safe space in the world for you that cannot be easily violated or taken away. I am reminded of the privilege of my being white and femme, of others assuming I am straight (even though this annoys me). I am reminded of the privilege of my liberal upbringing, of having had a positive lesbian role model growing up (even one), of having no one ever persecute me for my sexual and romantic orientation. I think of how complex being queer and specifically bisexual has been for me despite my privilege; how many stereotypes and labels I've had to unlearn, how much gaslighting compared to how little representation there is for bi/pansexual people in general. I realize the terror that is seeping into me from this news, and I immediately think of the horror and fear that is tenfold for all of the qpoc hearing the news. I want to scream and I want to protect my queer family and community, especially our qpoc members, and then I think of how I struggle to take care of myself on a day-to-day basis, and the overwhelming vulnerability of the queer community as a whole strikes me again, right in the face and in the gut, as always, and all I can think of is how much the world wants us to be dead, and how silent all the straight people I know on social media have been about this.
I think about the fact that as tragic as this shooting is, it is not, in fact, the largest mass shooting in American history; that horrid title belongs both to the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890, in which around 250 Native Americans were slaughtered, and to the Tulsa Massacre in 1921, in which roughly 300 African Americans were murdered. Why have we forgotten this? Do they not count?? And what about Indigenous and black lgbtqia people? How can they feel about this, when either way they are part of a group that has been the victim of the largest mass shooting in American history? How much violence can be endured before someone loses it completely?
My heart breaks for all the victims of Pulse Night Club – victims of being latinx and visibly queer and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the obvious truth is that when you are a qpoc, there is no "right" place for you to be, ever. One of the most alarming things about this murder is that it took place in what was supposed to be an unconditionally safe place for qpoc. What is alarming is that this fucking sicko entered a haven for qpoc, and defiled it by spilling the blood of the very people who went there to feel loved and included. That makes me fucking sick, that even our safe spaces are being invaded and defiled and populated by people who don't understand us and don't like us and who sometimes even want to kill us.
I have noticed this already in the increasing number of straight people hanging out in gay clubs, milling about and sipping our beer and laughing awkwardly at drag shows that they don't understand and laughing awkwardly at queer people dancing and kissing because they think it's fucking weird. This shooting, for me, is the ultimate confirmation that no matter how safe and queer we try to make our spaces, they are always, always invaded by straight people; they are marred by ignorant heteros who don't fucking like us and think we are a spectacle, like some kind of circus.
I suppose, most of all, the Orlando shooting makes me fucking furious. I feel violated, which pales in comparison to how violated and unsafe all qpoc must be feeling right now. Things are getting so bad, and we feel so unsafe, and many of us will be too scared to go to our own Pride this year, and this adds just another layer of terror and bloodshed to an already prolific record of queer murder, persecution, and abuse. I really have nothing to say other than I am so. fucking. tired.