On Sunday morning I logged into Facebook, and that’s when I saw the news about the mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that left at least 50 dead and 53 more injured. And later the reports came in about the person headed to bomb L.A. Pride. My heart sank into my gut.
Firstly, to say that this was the largest mass shooting is wrong, as it erases all of the mass genocide and murder that this country was built upon. Secondly, I’ve been seeing rainbow flags everywhere, but Pride was not made for people like us — people of color. Homonationalists and white cisgender queers can’t keep hiding behind rainbow flags and privilege.
“Homonationalism looks like celebrating the police for stopping the shooter even though the police are one of the largest threats to the health and safety of LGBTQI people. [It looks like] blaming Islam for the actions of one man. Homonationalism looks like celebrating Obama for speaking out against gun violence when his administration is the largest perpetrator of gun violence in the world.” — Ashe Girard
The Pulse Shooting Wasn’t the First Attack on Us by Any Means
I’m thinking back to — and learning more about — past periods of mass queerphobic violence. Compton’s Cafeteria Riots in 1966, the infamous Stonewall Riots in 1969 and the UpStairs Lounge Arson in 1973, to name a few. We’ve been under attack for so long. We have been at war with the state, just trying to live; to exist in our truths. It’s such a scary time to be visible and queer.
As my friend Caleb Luna put it in their Facebook post about the shooting: “We have been alive, targeted, attacked, resisting and celebrating since before gun laws, before hate crime laws, before ISIS. While we are at a specific moment in history that will allow this re-framing, misshaping, scapegoating of other Black and Brown communities, religious communities, global south communities in order to bolster and reignite the white supremacist agenda of our extinction under the guise of our safety, we have to remember that our presence is a product of, and resistance to and threat to colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy, the U.S. nation-state. We are constant reminders that these projects did not succeed … and they will fail. Increased policing, more laws, will not protect us, they are different heads of the same Hydra that cultivated this sentiment.”
I’m seeing almost no safe spaces for fellow queer/trans people of color. Our communities have been shaken to their cores. This has brought so many of us to our knees. We’re at such a pivotal moment in history. Folks need to understand that marriage equality won’t put incidents like this to bed. The idea that we’re equal now is a fallacy. White queers need to stop centering their voices and experiences and understand that queer people of color are in states of trauma, shock and mourning too. Our bodies have been under attack in ways that white queer folks will never experience or fathom. That privilege must not go unchecked.
After the Pulse Shooting, We Need to Support Each Other
With our communities shaken, it’s vital that we come together and support each other. We need to be tender with each other now, more than ever. We need to love each other. The friendships we’ve grown, the community we’ve built — however flawed it may be at times. The relationships and love we’ve cultivated online and in real life is tangible. That is meaningful.
We need to be soft, we need to support each other. The state and queerphobes want us gone. The biggest form of resistance is to love and smile, to laugh in the face of our oppressors. To cry out and show them that we are here and we won’t back down. They’ve tried time and time again to extinguish our flames and our light, and we are still here. We are a fire far too big to ever burn out.
Screw the rainbow flags that wash people of color out. Screw the homonationalists that are assisting the nation-state in our demise. Screw “equality.” Screw the disgusting Islamophobic rhetoric and sentiments surrounding the man who committed this horrific act of violence. Screw the erasure of Queer Muslims. Screw all the people who are pathologizing his actions and blaming mental illness(es). Screw white folks and the space they take from us and the privilege they hide behind. We are not them — we will never be them. We are a bigger and stronger storm to be reckoned with.
We need to hold space for each other to mourn and grieve and process this tragedy. Space to hold each other and amplify our voices and experiences. We need space to be angry, pissed, sad, afraid, anxious, and even numb or unmoved. Hold each other, check on each other, ask how we can collectively help support and aid one another. Take breaks and fall back when you need to. Contact your queer loved ones just to tell them you love them. Love like this glass box they’ve trapped us into can’t break. We are all we have! And that support is a form of resistance in itself. Every breath we take is a protest. They will not break us, familia. We are too strong.
I feel for everyone who was at Pulse. My Latinx communidad, mi gente, me familia. Those who had only this space to call safe. I worry about the survivors who were terrified, who will now possibly live with varying degrees of post traumatic stress. My heart goes to the queer folks who lost their friends and loved ones, to those who will live with scars — both physically and emotionally. My heart is so weary. I’m so tired of mourning my queer siblings before ever having the pleasure of meeting them. Please, amigxs, take care of yourselves.
Yes, it is such a scary time to be visible and queer. But we can still have joy. We can still smile, laugh, dance, fuck and fight. They will never take our magic. They will not steal our joy, familia, we will always rise!