Orlando, Being Queer, Bigotry, Liberty, and Pride13 June 2016
Truthfully I am never this emotionally triggered, or rocked, by news of massacres anymore. When I read articles of burning rainforests in Borneo my heart already feels so crippled from yesterday’s news of another gunned-down Black kid, or the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef, that I feel so numb it’s hard to come back to life to engage with example-after-example of a vicious, hateful world.
Orlando has rocked me. Some parts of me disgusted in how much any tragedy in the United States gets airtime are annoyed at this fact. Some parts of me are worried about how this will give an opportunity for bigots to wave their Islamophobia, or rather Arab-phobia, flag. I feel a little guilt that this is the thing that has kept me in bed for hours today crying, and not knowing how to motivate myself… mostly, I know why it has rocked me. And I am choosing to write about it.
It’s because I am queer.
I live in a world that argues incessantly over the equal rights of my people with heterosexuals: the rights of legal marriage, or civil unions, or of not being discriminated against in the workplace, or of trans people’s need to use a bathroom… what falls through the cracks often is even though we have progressed as societies, the day-to-day lives of many queer and trans people are still fraught with fear of physical injury, verbal abuse, or of not being loved and embraced. Things have improved. We are “tolerated” now – a disgusting attitude in my opinion – and sometimes we are totally embraced. There are corners of the world where we are fine to live completely openly without concern.
But – I still can’t walk down the street of a major city in Australia, Britain or the United States, without worrying that someone will actively express hatred at me because I am holding the hand of my lover. I still can’t give blood because I am a male who has had sex with a male in the past year. I still have to listen to religious bigots and fanatics speak about God’s love on popular television; about how homosexuality is a sin and should not be legislated into civil law as a right. These people are clearly not legitimate thinkers or feelers. We should give them no air-time. We should rebuke them. There is no place for any kind of bigotry in civil society, and hiding behind your book of legends and ancient histories is no excuse. There is a difference between “freedom of speech” and a society saying no to violence against marginalised or oppressed groups. I still have to check myself, censor myself, so that I might be safe. I live in a country right now where a lot of this danger is greatly minimised, where I will no longer go to jail, or suffer the loss of a career, or have my name printed in the newspaper because I attended a party, or was found having sex with my lover or lovers, or was ratted out to the police out of spite or hate.
Orlando. A city in a state in a country that has legal same-sex marriage. A city in a state in a country that is currently in its presidential election in which the Republican nominee speaks loudly about banning Muslim immigrants from entering the country and who linked this tragedy immediately with Islam and basically said “I told you so.” A country where the lives of trans people are constantly in danger, where trans women are murdered every week. A country that is calling this the worst massacre by gun-fire in its history pretending to amnesia about how the lands within “its borders” were stolen by invading colonisers who murdered First Nations peoples wherever they went. A country that greatly affects the rest of the world.
Last night at least 50 people were killed at a gay night-club. They were there being gay, being queer, being themselves, celebrating the month of Pride. This was a specific crime against a specific group. And for that they were murdered. Just as many were injured and more were traumatised, and around the world, any queer person, who reads or sees this news, will feel something familiar and old… there are people in this world who hate us, and want to kill us. And it happens all the time.
Some of us fear going to Pride events. Some of us fear touching our partners or friends in public. Some of us can not come out in our families because we know that our parents or siblings will physically assault us, or vilify us, or cast us out. Some of us have also made conscious or unconscious decisions to assimilate into the cis-heteronormative patriarchal culture of capitalism, violence and abuse. Any group actively silenced, marginalised, oppressed by this – our common enemy – is connected. Institutional and daily racism in Western, industrialised nations is linked to rampant misogyny is linked to the assault on trans women, is linked to the bigotry against Queer peoples. This is linked also to the rape of the Earth, to the pollution of the rivers and the skies, and to the silencing and attempted erasure of living, and persevering, First Nations and Indigenous peoples all over this planet. And – every one of those groups has Queer and Trans people among them – this is a tragedy that effects many, many people.
So we make families with each other. Queer people know how to make families with each other because we have been forced to; so many of us only know other queer people because in this way we are safe, we are celebrated, we can say who we love, and want we do, and where we go, because we are free.
I am a proud queer person. And I know – no one is free, until everyone is free. And if you think you’re free, then you have turned away and see only yourself.
Light candles, chant spells into the wind, pray to the Ancestors and the Gods; only do this if you are looking into the faces and hearts of the people you are hoping to help heal and support… only do this if it means you are reaching out your hand. And – I love you.