Orlando Happens Every Day

We say it would never happen here. It could never happen to me.

But it did happen. It happened to us. It happens every day, on street corners, in homes, at workplaces, on Facebook. Hatred isn’t always seen. Homophobia isn’t always obvious. But they’re always intrusive and divisive.

We on the receiving end are accustomed to being wary of holding hands or kissing in public because we know someone could be watching and choose to target us. Fear builds. And builds. And builds until we hide our identities, even from ourselves, when we leave the safety of our homes or keyboards. Some of us can’t hide (or pass) because we look too masculine to be a woman, too feminine to be a man, too gay to be straight – too much “them” to be “us.”

Queer love and existence has always been more private out of necessity and out of fear. We are keenly aware and constantly reminded that there are people who hate us for who we love or how we identify. It could be anyone, so we tread lightly in public, many of us. And now we are pushed even further back into our homes, our bedrooms, our closets…because maybe these are the places we’ll be safe. The only places we can be safe, maybe.

We don’t want to hide.

LGBTQ centers and community organizations exist because they are places we can go outside our homes and expect to be safe. Gay bars and nightclubs and queer-marketed vacations exist so we have places to go where we can expect to feel safe while having fun. It isn’t to exclude others or to cause separation or division; we’ve built these spaces out of necessity, to have places to gather as a community and family where we know others will welcome and love us as we are. We’ve created such remarkable safe spaces that many cis straight people even find refuge among us. We’re proud of this; to love so openly that so many feel welcome in our safe spaces.

Which is why we are so deeply shaken by Orlando.

When a gunman targets one of these sanctuaries we have built around our identities, the world suddenly, again, becomes starkly less safe for us. Our opportunities to connect with others who understand are cut off, once again. Where can we go?

We shouldn’t go to dinner as an obvious couple. Someone could beat us up.

We shouldn’t go to a nightclub, gay or straight, because in either place we could be targeted for loving the way we love, or identifying the way we identify.

We shouldn’t hold our childrens’ hands at the park as a couple, we could be approached and assaulted and our children traumatized.

We shouldn’t be in public.

When such attacks happen, we retreat back to our homes, we become isolated from our communities, we hide our identities, we pull our ‘other’ identity out of storage so we can survive. And many of us don’t survive, because suicide allows us to die with more dignity than gunmen, rapists, or other killers taking our lives without our consent.

We don’t want to die.

Orlando happened. Orlando happens every day in smaller ways that are no less impactful on those whose lives are affected. Orlando happens and we choose every day whether we actively advocate for ourselves or our friends, or whether we stay silent when we should speak up.

This isn’t isolated.

Words, gestures, glances, actions, legislation, and violence, left uncontested and unchallenged, build up to horrific tragedies that leave our hearts broken and the wind gone from our lungs.

We just want to be safe. 

A man walks into a queer nightclub and kills 49 people. Pulse Nightclub, Orlando.

It will happen again. We just want to be safe.

A man enters a prayer service in a black church and kills nine of them, leaving one alive on purpose. Emanuel AME Church, Charleston.

It will happen again. We just want to be safe.

A man enters an elementary school and kills 26 children and adults. Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown.

It will happen again. We just want to be safe.

A man attends a political constituent meeting and shoots the candidate in the head and kills six others. Gabrielle Giffords, Tucson.

A man shoots a teenager walking through his neighborhood because the teenager is black. Trayvon Martin, Sanford.

A man enters an immigration services center.

A man enters a Planned Parenthood clinic.

A man enters a school, a community college, a university.

A man enters a Sikh Temple, a Mosque, a Church.

It will happen again.  We just want to be safe.

Can we?

We can stop it. Can’t we?

Standing by silently while fear and hatred build means we are all responsible for the massacre that has rocked Orlando, Florida. We’re responsible for the school shootings, the religious sanctuary deaths, the workplaces gunned down. We’re responsible, not for the individual actions of the gunmen, but because we have all seen hatred and ignored it. We’re responsible when we silence, or we don’t give a damn, or when we don’t listen to our friends who are queer or black or Mexican or Latinx or Muslim or female or or or. We are responsible when we see bullying and do nothing and say nothing. We are responsible when we walk away from someone spouting hate, ignorance, and fear.  We’re responsible because we haven’t fought hard enough to reform gun laws.

Saying the Orlando shooting was an attack on America is like saying all lives matter instead of Black Lives Matter. The massacre a year ago at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was a hate crime against black people; the Orlando massacre was a direct attack on the LGBTQ community celebrating Latin Night. Only with that caveat does this become an attack on America – but only if America is willing to stand up for the right for all who are marginalized because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, color, or culture to live without fear. This is an attack on America only if America is willing to say, “We’re all LGBTQ now.”

Together, we can overcome these things.

Now is the time to hold each other. But tomorrow, and every day after that, we must love more. Each tragedy must spur us onward, at the same time that each should cause us to cleave together. We must remind ourselves what it means to be a community; to love each other; to listen; to breathe; to light candles and mourn quietly, somberly, for a few moments before getting back to the battlefield.

This is our battlefield. Love is our battlefield.

This will happen again.

But let me remind you: we are America; “United We Stand, Divided We Fall” is truer than ever.

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