Queer people- where did you go after Orlando?
Here’s where I went on Monday evening:
I tried to sing along. My voice cracked.
And then I went here:
I went to Pantibar. It was packed. I found a seat. Got a goddamn drink. We raised our glasses: to calling out homophobia wherever we see it. Then we raised them again: to being us. To being as unapologetically queer as we can.
This is important.
Two days before, a man had walked into one of the Orlando Latinx LGBTQIA community’s most necessary spaces. He’d walked into a space where people who have been told that they’re nothing from so many angles go to celebrate one another. And he gave his life to destroy that space.
Queer people, trans people, QUILTBAGgers, POC: where did you go when you heard? How many of you went back to y/our spaces? How many of you went somewhere where you could be seen?
That’s the power in our spaces. That’s what makes them sacred: they are often the only places where we can be seen and understood as who we are. Where we can be celebrated. Where we can be loved.
Just some gay pride thing
I remember reading a Facebook post on Tuesday morning- I can’t find it right now, by the way, so if you posted it please let me know so I can credit! Someone was on Dame Street, a little way past where we held our vigil. They overheard some American tourists discussing what was going on up the street. “Oh”, one of them said, “It’s just some gay pride thing”.
Just some gay pride thing.
Just some gay pride thing.
Some people wonder why I’ve taken this to heart in the way that I have. Why this massacre has kept me up at night and woken me with nightmares. After all, it’s thousands of miles away. I don’t know any of the people who were murdered. I don’t have a direct connection.
That’s why. Because a group of cishet American tourists saw hundreds of Irish people marking the deaths of fifty of their own countrypeople less than two days before and, because we waved our rainbow flags, dismissed it as just some gay pride thing. Because they see us as frivolous.
I don’t see us as frivolous. I don’t see you as frivolous: the queer latinx people whose pain has been shoved aside in so many ways this week. When people question the shooter’s motives. When they don’t say “LGBT”. When white queer people don’t say that although we can share your pain and stand beside you in grief, solidarity and fear, we have not been murdered this week. You are not frivolous. I see you. I see you. I see you. You matter.
That’s why we went to Pantibar. We could be seen. I know that throughout the world, queers- especially QPOC- went to the spaces where we and they could see one another. Where those spaces existed, we went there.
Days after one man murdered fifty people for going to a space where they could be seen, we have gone back. Not to Pulse- not yet, but I hope that Pulse can open its doors again. But to other queer spaces. And you know something? The doors of our queer spaces stayed open. We went back, even though any other shooter could have walked into any other bar and murdered fifty more of us.
I am in awe of our courage.
Hide who you are.
I’ve heard this from a lot of queer people over the last few days: they’re getting messages from their straight family and loved ones. Telling them to tone things down. Act a little less queer. Be less affectionate. Keep safe.
As if hiding has ever saved us. But we understand what they don’t: that we know, we have always known, that we are at risk.
Two friends of mine walked home in Dublin this weekend. Some teenage kids followed them, shouted homophobic abuse at them. This is nothing new. It happens all the time. Barely a week goes by without some queer person or couple who I care for being targeted. If you’re straight you might think we get used to it, because we brush it off or we don’t tell you about it. Nobody really gets used to it. You’re just not the ones we tell. But trust me when I say this: I know that we’re at risk. We know.
We know that we’re at risk when we walk down the street. We know there’s a risk when we go into a queer bar or cafe or community centre or join a Pride parade. We do it anyway. Because the alternative is far worse: burying who we are. Giving in to shame.
Somebody might beat me up. Somebody will definitely shout at me on the street. Someone might do worse. They do this because they don’t want us to exist unashamed.
I refuse to do their work for them.
Straight people: don’t tell your queer and trans loved ones to tone our selves down. Don’t be part of that. Don’t be another voice telling us to hush. Don’t do their work for them.
I see you. I love you.
We went to the street. We went to our bar. We promised each other to be who we are, and that we’ll call out queerphobia wherever we see it.
We did this because we know: someone could hurt us at any time. Our lives are worth celebrating anyway. We know: people outside our community see us as a joke or an abomination. We love each other anyway. We know: we need to see and be seen, to love and be loved, to express and to hear.
Those people who were murdered last Saturday night. They were killed because they celebrated who they were: queer, Latinx. They were killed because they dared to dance with one another.
So I celebrate you. I see you. I love you. So we dance.
Where did you go to after Orlando?