When I first heard about the Orlando massacre I didn’t have an emotional response. The numbers weren’t revealed yet, and the only information I knew was that it was a shooting at a nightclub. Another one. It’ll get a few moments on the 10 o’ clock news and people will simply not care like they always do.
Then I discovered that it was at a gay nightclub and the shooter was a homophobe. People on facebook and twitter commented on how incomprehensible the violence was. Incomprehensible? When it happens all the time in this culture of violence? How privileged and isolated you must be to think this is incomprehensible. Exasperation and cynicism began to bubble up in me.
Not even 24 hours passed when articles everywhere began discussing how the shooter was an ISIS supporter, acting on behalf of the terrorist organization. Suddenly it turned into a terrorist attack on America, with patriots everywhere proudly brandishing their islamophobia and declaring that America will not stand for this. They are liars. Anger began to consume me.
2 days later, and I’m still holding back tears of rage. These “patriots” are using queer bodies as ammunition for their evil bigotry and nationalism. How disrespectful they are, to use queer people of color, the groups they have always hated and tried to erase through violence, fear, and laws, for their agendas. How utterly vile their “prayers and thoughts” are in response.
Day 3 and that rage gave way to bitterness. The massacre has been taken over by the gun debate, and even well-meaning people have been erasing the victims and the shooter’s motivations. Now the discourse is dominated by the 2nd amendment, terrorism, and mental illness. Petitions to ban assault rifles flood facebook pages. The NRA and their supporters counter back. There is no middle ground, no reasonable discussion, just everyone yelling about guns.
Now we are on to day 4. My emotions swing between bitter emptiness and angry determination. In real life I’m surrounded by those same “patriots” who grimaced the few times I said I was bi. They still don’t know that I’m agendered. They don’t believe me anyway, and they certainly didn’t care about anything except that the supposedly Muslim shooter was killed by the police. They’re very satisfied with that result, saying that’s how it should be.
It’s not how it should be. The victims should not be erased, the shooter’s motivations should not be hidden by the US’s terrorist agenda, and the primarily Christian”patriots” should not be able to brush of any responsibility. They created this environment that seeks to eradicate queers and people of color, especially those who refuse to be controlled. They contributed to this culture of hate. They may not have pulled the trigger, but they are responsible for everything else with their words, votes, and actions.
Us white queers, we are responsible too. We are less likely to be a target compared to queer people of color, and we need to use that to our advantage. Those of us who can stand up for others in our communities should do so, and don’t let mainstream society forget who the victims actually are. The victims are predominantly queer, latinix people of color. They were killed for being queer in a society that hates queerness, for being black and brown in a society that hates non-whites. They were killed for being unapologetically themselves.
I will not let people forget that.
For 49 days I will be wrapping in honor of the 49 deaths of the Orlando Pulse massacre. The rainbow scarf conveys the hope and resilience queer people have in face of this society. No matter how long and terrible the storm rages, it cannot prevent the rainbow from appearing afterwards.