I’ve been out as queer for over a decade. Most of my standup act revolves around queer themes. I produce a queer comedy show. For two years, I’ve written about queerness for this beautiful publication. Most of my friends are queer. I have a femme tattoo. My life is really gay. Sometimes, straight people criticize my openness. Why do I talk about being queer so much? Why do I tell so many queer jokes? I mean, we can get married now and I live in the Bay Area — the fight is basically over, right?
I woke up on June 12 and learned, as you all did, that the worst mass shooting in our country’s history happened, and that it was an attack on my people. The fight is not over. It is not about equality. It is not about marriage (don’t listen to anyone who tells you this was ever about fucking marriage). It is about seeing us as people. It is about choice. It is about freedom. It is, duh, about love.
On the day of the Pulse Orlando tragedy, I was not prepared to deal with it. Fuck, how could anyone ever be ready to comprehend a tragedy of this scope? I woke up sleepy and out of it, as I usually do. I laid in bed and checked the New York Times app, as I usually do. The headline read, in all caps, “50 SHOT DEAD AT GAY NIGHTCLUB IN FLORIDA; OBAMA CONDEMNS WORST SHOOTING IN U.S. HISTORY.” I couldn’t let this tragedy into my soul right away. I simply could not process the hatred, the homophobia, the deep heartbreak I knew was about to hit me. So I distracted myself with a Tinder date and the Tonys.
At around 7 p.m., my illegal Tonys stream failed and I was left sitting alone and afraid in my bed, with only my cigarettes and my feelings. The profundity of the hate hit me. It hit me hard. I felt deeply sad. I was surprised that I didn’t feel angry. I just felt very, deeply sad. Guns terrify me. I am dumbfounded by homophobia. What happened in Orlando is horrendous. Not only was it an attack on queer people, it was an attack on mostly young POC queers. I thought about how at least a dozen trans women have already been murdered in 2016. LGBTQ people are still targets and victims and punchlines.
I’m blessed to live in the Bay Area, a bubble of queerness where I often forget that there are people who hate me and want me dead because of who I choose to love and/or sleep with. But I’ve still dealt with homophobia here. I’ve been spat at when I walked down the streets of San Francisco with my ex. I’ve had my ass grabbed by a random dude in a bar who was inexplicably angered by me kissing a woman. I’ve been threatened with violence by a group of burly men in another bar who didn’t like me holding my girlfriend’s hand.
Many men have told me I can’t possibly be queer because I’m pretty. Men have tried to get in my pants after I do a fifteen minute set with jokes about how I hate guys hitting on me. After Orlando, straight people told me to stop making it “us versus them” when I posted a status kindly requesting straight people stop telling us how to grieve. Some straight people had the gall to tell me everyone is grieving after this tragedy, that it’s the same.
It’s not the same. We share this grief as a nation, but if you’ve never been threatened with violence for holding your lover’s hand in public, you don’t feel the same grief I and other queers feel. You don’t feel less safe because of this tragedy. It’s 2016 and I live in what is supposed to be a queer oasis, and people still hate me for being me.
Orlando broke me for a day. I sobbed and sobbed, immobilized by grief. But I quickly stepped up, because I am resilient. Queers are resilient. We have to be. I feel more motivated by my queerness than I have in years.
I don’t usually get political on Facebook, but I unleashed a torrent of articles and advice for helping in this difficult time. I donated as much money as I could spare. My “Man Haters” co-producer Irene Tu and I decided to donate all our show’s raffle proceedings. I joined forces with three other queer performers and we are producing a benefit for Orlando on June 28 featuring over a dozen queer Bay Area performers, and prioritizing Latinx performers. I performed in a benefit last Sunday, organized by my queer musician friend Julie Indelicato, who is a goddess.
My heart is healing because I got to share a stage with so many talented queer performers. I reconnected with old friends. I geeked out about lipstick with a new femme friend. I shared hugs and happy tears with my friend Elliott. I bonded over kink with a stranger. I gushed to my butch bestie Willa about my new (unbelievably amazing) lover. I got so many hugs. I handed out Man Hater pins with Irene. I drank lukewarm tap water, which is my favorite and completely underrated. I sang along to an English folk song in the sunshine. Queers are beautiful and brave and strong and we show up. I’m so lucky to be queer and exist in this beautiful community in this beautiful part of this country. My heart is full.
Being proactive is what I need right to heal right now. I stopped identifying as an activist years ago. I decided to focus on standup. Years of activism had exhausted me. But I’m still an activist, even if I didn’t realize it. At “Man Haters,” we book all women (and one token queer man) and prioritize queer, trans, disabled and other marginalized women. My act is at least 75 percent queer jokes. Every day I put on my lipstick and my short dresses and deal with how my femmeness makes people doubt my queerness.
Getting out of bed and existing in the world as an unapologetic femme is a radical act. I am an activist. I’m not going to shut up about what a big homo I am. My voice is important. My experience is important. Your voice is important. Your experience is important. I’m never going to stop talking about my sexuality and gender. I’m never going to stop fighting. We’re not done.
Some further reading about this tragedy that I recommend:
An aging dyke’s beautiful words about how we weren’t supposed to experience this: “I’m an aging dyke, so I’m just going to get this out of my system: kids, y’all 35 and under, this wasn’t supposed to happen to you.”
Anderson Cooper reads the victims’ names, tells their stories and shows their faces. It is important that we say their names.