This a blog post by MD Spicer-Sitzes, a team member of the TESA Collective.
Itâ€™s been about two months since the shooting on Latinx Night at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando; a horrific 3 hour scene that left 49 dead, 53 physically injured, and people all over the world in mourning.
Historically, legal rights have been stifled for queer people by the state, and especially people of color who also identify as genderqueer, transgender, orÂ undocuqueer. Outside of gay marriage and stealth conversations, which most often follow the â€œweâ€™re just like youâ€ storyboard, diverse queer communities are left out of mainstream news.
For this blog, Iâ€™ve opted to personally reflect on several ongoingÂ flashbacks Iâ€™ve had post tragedy in Orlando. MyÂ experience, like many others whoâ€™ve mourned Pulse are triggered by both previous experiences of trauma, and the many dangerous encounters Â myself and others living both in or out of the closet continuously have.
Itâ€™s my hope that youâ€™ll not let the conversation of LGBTQ2S freedom get pushed aside again (Iâ€™m adopting the term LGBTQ2S from our friends in the city of Vancouver, BC and youâ€™ll see it more below). Instead I urge you to join in the conversation as an ally, less visible supporter, or even as a visible voice for justice. Â Â
Morning after the shootings:
My partner and I hear repeated phobic rhetoric in the days after the shooting. Stories framed an outpouring of support for the lesbian and gay community while repeatedly making islamophobic remarks. I shake my â€˜noâ€™ head a lot.
I wonder if others are thinking what I am: That the media coverage is only an attempt to falsely link ISIS and grow public support to continue the war against Muslims. I think the media has avoided an opportunity once again. I think of my chosen queer family. I want to see more representation and support for the community, but not like this. I need to find time to mourn.
The queer response:
The movement knows how to respond to trauma. Chani Nicholas released a statement saying,
â€œEach time we out ourselves, and we do, a million times a day, we are made vulnerable to their violence. To their ignorance. To their toxic masculinity. To their violence that is upheld by far too many laws and policies. And by your silence.â€
â€œThis was an attack on queerness, on queer and trans people of color specifically. Our rage is a queer rage. Our love for our community, for the victims and survivors of this tragedy, is a queer love.â€
AORTA and Chani were right. In my own daily life, I begin to receive texts, emails and posts from my queer family and our allies within hours of the shooting. Off mainstream media. People post reminders to keep dancing all over the place. Fear canâ€™t win when itâ€™s flooded with love and courage. I find time to kiss my lover more intently. Â
My representation of queer love:
Back in Oakland, my partner Cathy and I have a date to elope at city hall three days after the attack. We discuss reasons to document.
We feel committed to loving each other as life partners. But Iâ€™ve read Against Equality, and agree with it mostly. Gay and Lesbian marriage (largely accessible to white people only) has benefitted capitalism making it in the end, a rather conservative cause. Once the conservatives got hip to the notion that gay weddings generate capital, changes came down the pipeline and viola! Marriages for lesbians and gays are becoming legal, I can no longer get fired (but my undocumented trans sister can?) and the military can raise the rainbow flag in pride.
Suddenly everything is supposed to be fine (by law). But Iâ€™m not a lesbian. Iâ€™m genderqueer. My partner is a tomboy. We donâ€™t fit into boxes nicely. Are we falling into one by documenting?
I make a list of why to document now in my head, and some of the reasons sound cliche typed out, but what the hell:
- For folks who are denied documentation of any kind, we commit to advocate visibly in allyship
- For victims of the shootings at Pulse who planned to marry and couldnâ€™t
- For incarcerated folks who dream of the day, we will show up for you and advocate visibly
- For our queer ancestors who fell
- To show the state queer people arenâ€™t going anywhere (and hope that does something)
- To have a child with (maybe) a little less fear
- To prove the document has nothing to do with our love (b/c it doesnâ€™t)
- To deny having a big ceremony
- To travel a little more protected (not much)
- For our families who accept us
- For our families who still donâ€™t
We did it. We got married. We didnâ€™t exchange fancy rings, or tell anyone but a chosen few. Our witness was our photographer friend, Mei-Ling. My spouseâ€™s kiss at the top of the rotunda in SF City Hall was the sweetest thing Iâ€™d ever felt. At the same time, the activist in me couldnâ€™t help but to want to draw on every bit of fancy marble with my lipstick and shout â€œF. You!â€ to just about every politician walking around.
I held my spouseâ€™s hand as we walked out of the building and thought for a moment, â€œWhat if she werenâ€™t here?â€ I thought of how many nights I sought for and found my queer family in the club. I thought of how my own journey to my queerness was shaped on the wave of the equality fight and I thought of how many queer folks still donâ€™t have access to a club, documentation, or a life at all. Fortune is a huge responsibility.
Back in Oakland: Â
The streets have been lit with response to the Pulse shootings, and more recently, to the tragic murders of Philando Castillo, Alton Sterling, Korryn Gaines, and many other names of police-state victims.
In a living document, LGBTQ2S and ally academics, activists, scholars and librarians are contributing to what has become the longest QTPOC led and LGBTQ2S resource content list to date.
The #PulseOrlandoSyllabus is a Â 84+ page document of resources including self care links, POC trans* and queer authors, and links to queer friendly cooperatives and collectives. TESA Collective was fortunate enough to catch wave of this outstanding resource, and itâ€™s my hope that youâ€™ll read and use it.
I have boundless gratitude to the facilitators of #PulseOrlandoSyllabus, and for my entire queer family. Whether your are out of the closet, still trapped inside, or somewhere on the spectrum in-between, thank you for existing. We are living in this current historical moment together, not separate from each other no matter how far away from each other we can seem. Many of us have and will continue to have trauma flashbacks and ongoing reflective times surrounding Pulse, and the many other conflicts our community faces just by existing.
I hope that from reading this, our allies especially will stand up. We need you when we arenâ€™t around to defend ourselves yes, but we also need you when we are around, to stand beside us. We need you to vote like you care about us. We need you to learn language and let go of microaggressions. We need you to stand with us.
By standing together, we can make sense of things together. We can collectively address the trauma that weâ€™re either experiencing first hand, or upholding for others by supporting oppressive systems. Many of us are still in pain and always have been. Many of us are rising up. Hopefully the pain will propel more of us forward than it has let fall.
In the spirit of the many Pulse Orlando revolutionaries: Two months later and still; we will never stop dancing. We will never stop loving. We will keep kissing, and we will strive on.
You can reachÂ MD atÂ MD@toolboxfored.org or on IG @currentmomentÂ