June 12, 2016. In Orlando, Florida, a mass murder (one of the worst in modern American history) took place at Pulse, a LGBTQ+ club, during its Latinx Night. Many QTPoC lives were lost. All of a sudden, people that wouldn’t dare check up on a person of color, let alone one in the LGBTQ+ community, started to get in their feelings. They started claiming that they, too, were Orlando; that they wanted to do anything to help folks heal and recover.
Why did it take the mass murder of LGBTQ+ Black and Brown bodies for people to actually care about us?
As someone who has been out in the community since I was about 14 (and more active as I got closer to 20), this was something I was actively aware of before I got into social justice. White LGBTQ+ people would ignore the grievances of people of color and would let racism slide in “safe spaces,” which meant it was no longer safe for people of color. They did not care. But after this incident, many of them want to memorialize our bodies and honor the fact that Pride, once an act of resistance, has become corporate hell.
This is true for cisgender and heterosexual folks as well. All of a sudden, they’re in tears because “it could’ve been me.” All of a sudden, they’re centering their feelings around themselves. The day before, they were defending the right to use slurs like “fag” and “dyke” to insult their straight friends. The day before, they called trans women “freaks.” Even now, they think that putting a filter over a Facebook photo is going to affect the intersections of systemic oppression that have been happening for decades.
Related: Why Trans Suicides are Also Murders
But it won’t. And they won’t. In a week, those 50 dead and 53 injured will not matter. Those not in the affected groups may feel good now, but they will not care about QTPoC bodies when the week has ended. Even now, these same groups center their feelings around this incident, even though they’re not in a group that was targeted. Despite the memorization, people still ignore the population most affected by the incident and center themselves around a vigil. Even though they would never be in a position similar to the many folks that have been slaughtered.
Here’s the bottom line: the Pulse shooting hurt QTPoC. And the whitewashing and omission I’ve been seeing has been so damn disgusting. Even when these people are being memorialized, they are being undervalued.
Don’t take up space that belongs to Black and Brown bodies. Hold us and acknowledge that our pain is extremely valid.
But above all, acknowledge our bodies as valid when we’re alive. Instead of empty promises, figure out how to organize spaces through an anti-oppression lens. Call people out on their shit so truly safe spaces can exist. Don’t wait until it’s too late to give a fuck. Stop waiting until we’re dead.