I started this post on Monday, completely torn up about Orlando. My heart is broken, my rage a living thing – that we keep facing these horrific mass shootings, that queer people are not allowed to simply live their lives in peace, that we seem to have no will as a people to DO BETTER.
Then I pulled back. There were many people writing smart, articulate pieces on queer rights, on gun control, on a culture of hate and entitlement, on resisting shame, blame, and distraction. There was also a lot of noise. Even though I needed to write, perhaps I didn’t need to write out loud, to hit publish just yet.
As the days have passed, I’ve come back to what I started writing, and I still want to share it. My emotions are running high as I try to organize my thoughts. That feels honest. Tomorrow, I’ll share some of the writing that has most moved me this week.
When I first started dating an American, I lived and worked in Canada. I was born and raised there. It was all I had known until I first travelled to Mexico, where I met that American.
Later that summer, I turned to the gal at the next desk and said, “What am I doing? I’m dating someone who lives in a country with no health insurance and no gun control. This is NOT a good combination.” She agreed, saying, “The heart wants what the heart wants,” and we shook our heads.
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
Luis Daniel Conde, 39
Yilmary “Mary” Rodriquez Solivan, 24
Jonathan Camuy Vega, 24
Oscar A. Aracena Montero, 26
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31
Stanley Almodovar III, 23
Vancouver’s West End, an incredibly housing-dense area between downtown and Stanley Park, was home to some of the city’s best restaurants, bars, sex shops, beaches, and a strong, beautiful, supportive gay community. And me.
That thriving gay community was not a separate thing. It was woven into the rest of the neighbourhood, a tapestry with threads that represented each of us. That’s not the whole of it, of course. The queer community faced judgement, discrimination, and hardships I would never experience. Still, my gay neighbours were also my friends. We shared stories and food at our tables, we looked out for each other.
I lived there as the 80s turned into the 90s. AIDS was a terrifying reality, disproportionately affecting the gay community, and my friends and I were afraid for them. Because this was seen as a gay disease, there was not an immediate health care response. Too many years went by without adequate understanding, screening, treatment, protection.
Too many kind, warm, generous, loving, good people died afraid, too soon.
Javier Jorge Reyes, 40
Edward Sotomayor, 34
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29
Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
Geraldo Ortiz Jiminez, 25
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
Miquel Angel Honorato, 30
I moved to the US when an unexpected pregnancy with that American changed everything for me. It turned out that the heart did not want what it thought it wanted, though, and it took many years for me to trust my instincts again. By then, Seattle was home, and I had a daughter to raise, protect, and educate.
Slowly – too damn slowly – the laws in the US that affect gay rights have been coming into alignment with civil rights, with basic human rights. Marriage equality became the (federal) law of the land and we celebrated. Still, queer and trans people are discriminated against, persecuted for who they love. Some states have made their own laws, licensing hate.
Eric Ivan Ortiz Rivera, 36
Juan Chavez Martinez, 25
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
Cory James Connell, 21
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31
Christopher Sanfeliz, 24
The people at the Pulse Club died and were wounded in a safe place where they had been living, laughing, dancing. They were not simply visiting this world – they were living out loud in it, inside that safe space. They were living their truth, with people they loved. That is a sacred thing.
But there’s little comfort in that. Because their safe spaces are few. Because as hard as it has always been for gay white people, it has been harder – still and more – for gay and trans people of colour. Especially in the US.
Jean Carlos Nieves Rodriguez, 27
Angel Luis Candalario Padro, 28
Antonio Davon Brown, 29
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
Frankie Hernandez, 27
Paul Terrell Henry, 41
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
There are so many ways to make someone the Other – to exclude or separate them from the rights and benefits some so easily experience. When those ways intersect, individual and community vulnerability expands.
If the cultural/historical default is the cis, heterosexual, white male citizen of means, then the one who is non-binary, queer/gay/trans, immigrant, person of colour, living in poverty (check all that apply) is the most at risk.
I am becoming convinced the NRA is a terrorist organisation. I define terrorists as those who promote their agenda through fear. What else does the NRA do? Today I saw someone name the NRA as war criminals. They are arming – and protecting the armament – of the old default story in the war against the Other. And against the government who might try and regulate their arms.
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Omar Capo, 20
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19
Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25
Peter Ommy Gonzalez Cruz, 22
There were people at the Pulse Club who felt safe to express their sexuality only there, whose families didn’t know they were gay or trans until they received the call. The call that their child was dead. The call that their child was in a hospital fighting for their life.
I am haunted by the idea of the the ringing telephones in the pockets or handbags of the people – bodies – lying on the floor or huddled together in a toilet stall of the Pulse Club. As the news broke, their phones rang out with people checking on loved ones – a modern sound, a sound first responders must deal with now.
Akyra Murray, 18
Shane Tomlinson, 33
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
Drew Leinonen, 32
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
Luis Vielma, 22
I moved to the US and raised my daughter here. I became a citizen, in part, so I could vote, so my voice would count. Those early concerns? The health insurance situation is much improved from what it was.
Guns and gun control, though? Much worse than when I first moved here.
I think of my openly gay friends – especially the ones with lots of melanin – and I fear they can be targets. Where I live, in the liberal-leaning Pacific Northwest, most of the people I know and interact with share my views on civil rights and human rights FOR ALL.
To those who do not, I say this, in advocacy for all queer people:
Live and let love. It is none of anyone else’s business who people love. It is not for you to agree or disagree with, or tolerate, or speculate about. For you to say anything is to contribute to the environment of hate that made this tragedy possible. It is not your business. Be kind to each other. Respect each other.
Everyone. Every single one.
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25
KJ Morris, 37
Amanda Alvear, 25
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30
Once again, too many kind, warm, generous, loving, good people died too soon. They died afraid.
Much too soon.