Orlando; Understanding, Mourning, Resolve.
It has been a long time since I’ve written. I have not had a whole lot to say. I hate to say it but my life feels almost normal. It’s been weird to feel like a relatively successful member of society. And then I heard something that threw my world upside down. As I was starting to end the days of hating myself, hate ripped through my consciousness again in the form of a mass shooting. I tried to stay away from the news. I worked to remain distant, because even though I live in Chicago during the actions of Orlando… my safety was threatened too.
A week ago, a little more than 24 hours after the incident. I stumbled across the first article I saw about the matter, and my worst fears were realized as I read the article… “Orlando shooting: 49 killed, shooter pledged ISIS allegiance.” That headline itself was painful to read. But, the article was much worse. It was not painful because I am a part of the targeted community. The pain was that, that the targeted community was hardly mentioned. I mourn for those lost; I pray for those they left behind; I deeply hope the survivors can get all the support they need. However, my personal safety is more threatened now, than ever before.
The article I read did more to trivialize, minimize, and undermine the LGBT community than the shooter ever could have imagined accomplishing.
I have since run across many articles which in, in my opinion, completely miss the point. In fact, I had read through the middle of last week, no news article, blog post, Facebook post or any other medium which contains what is true in my heart. My existence has been safe; my existence has been fulfilling; I have been a functioning member of society… Until the world fell down around me over around a week ago. I am convinced, that I am no longer safe.
Last Sunday Night, I was settling in to listen to what ended up being a wonderful concert of both: Of Monsters and Men, and Florence and the Machine. I realized, in that moment, I was never safe… I was just fooling myself. Why do so many people in this community hide? Because this is what happens when we don’t. Just as we come back into society. Just as we become more accepted. Just when it appears society as a whole is going to welcome us with open arms. Someone, regardless of their religion, regardless of their nationality, regardless of any pledge they made, attacks us with hate, in the largest way this particular tool has ever seen. However, the tool is less important: gun, words, new laws… Hate is hate.
The LGBT community has been told, for a very long time, we are bad people. It is a very interesting thing to imagine. Say you have a son, who has realized he is gay, but has yet to come out. You have no idea… When your son comes to you and say he has fallen in love, how do you respond? If you say “Who’s the lucky girl?” It is possible you came to an assumption that may have minimized him. This is creating an unsafe space. It reinforces something he has been told by media. It is something that is reinforced by friends on the school yard using “gay” as a slur and synonym for bad or uncool.
This story is not about the shooter, his religion, his nationality, his pledge, or his guns. This story is about people being in their safe space dying because they decided to tell someone where their safe space was. There will always be people that hate and take action against the LGBT community. That is not news. The news is that society doesn’t care that these people have so few safe spaces that this is an intrusion, and violation of the soul of every LGBT person.
The most egregious crime committed, was that a much needed safe space, was made unsafe.
On top of that this has been spun as ‘Islam hates us’ uniting the entire nation. That could not be any less true. There are some very helpful members of our community who are devout Muslims. This is a single troubled individual, not a religion, or a race, lashing out against a community he felt deserved it. Does any community deserve what happened?
In the last week, I have been fearful of gatherings that contained many people, or was known to contain people like me. I spoke up far less about my past. I was more afraid to “come out” than any other time in my life. And being misgendered or having anyone question my gender has been worse for me than ever before. Why? Because this event shows that my past makes me a target.
I feel sad for members of my community who not only are targeted for being part of this community, but for something else as well. Race? Culture? Religion? The members of our community who are Muslim? I have been blessed most of my life to not be a part of this or any other targeted community. However, my heart, my soul, has always been. Now, I fly the flag of the community with love, not just my own white blue and pink flag.
I have to get used to what it means to be a target, and this… Was a large wake-up call to everyone in the community, yes, we are all targets too. From people, regardless of their religion, regardless of their background, regardless of their skills, age, social standing, or citizenship. Those people wish to drive hate into our hearts. They are individual instances, and can come from anywhere. To all those people who wish to add hate into my life: There is enough here from myself; I don’t need yours too.
Westboro Baptist Church protested some of the funerals of those lost in this attack. So If the attacker is a Muslim and his actions allow us to judge that entire religion hates us, do the actions of Westboro allow us to conclude that Christianity hates us as well?
A comment online about this very fact answered the question for me. “Bunch of Homophobic Idiots who give Christians a bad name.” And so just like that the shooter is: “A Single Homophobic idiot who give Muslims a bad name.” Unfortunately, America, as a whole, has only been listening to the Muslims who give Islam a bad name. I have found one of the best things about community is we contain people of ever race, background, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. And we welcome them, with extreme love.
This last week, has passed in fear for me. This last week, has hurt my heart. But I realized, my answer comes within the element that makes me the calmest: The Water. Water has taught me a lot in my life. If water is flowing, as our community has… And you put a block in it, when that block is released, the water floods. It overcomes anything it passes. It pulls up stones, houses, and can change the world.
Likewise, when you channel water into a tighter area, a tighter purpose, it is stronger as well. When you push back against water, it will push back out at you and overwhelm. If you punch water, you will displace it, but it will twist around your hand. This community was a pond, then it became a lake, now, it is an ocean. And like the ocean, all streams lakes and rivers, flow back to them.
Today, I stand here with urge to be a larger member of the community. I will begin to write again; I hope… I realize that my voice is part of the community. I may, for the first time, go to Chicago Pride. I have yet to decide on that regard, however I have never had the urge before. In late 2000, when I first identified as a member of the community, as a bisexual male, I would have never dreamed of being part of the community. I lived in my own little safe spaces. Nobody invaded my safe spaces. I was a stream that flowed its own way. Now, I say lay me down, let me join this community with more vigor, and let the only sound be the overflow we will have to change society.
Dear Leelah, Orlando’s Lost, and all the left to be unspoken, members who we lost to suicide, murder, and hate. We will overflow. We will fix our society. The LGBT community is united as a flood. From our safe spaces, we flood out, pushing harder because we got pushed… And now, we are channeled. We shouldn’t be forced to live in our own little safe spaces. We will make the world a safe space for us.
An Obvious Question
Why do I use this song? The power of music, the powerful thoughtful words can mean anything you read into them. This song has a powerful meaning, an obvious powerful meaning. This song was one of many that speak to a meaning of resolve in another way. Resolve to end… Everything.
This is a conversion of that meaning for me. The power of music is, even the darkest songs, can be built up and strengthen to the point of resolve past the original intent. That is what I try to do here… I know that may upset some,I hope not to take too much heat and hate for it…
From now on when I hear this song it will be my own little community rallying call. Past the feelings it originally intend though to the power of a united community overwhelming and flooding over those that hate us.
For Orlando, For Leelah, and for all those lost, I unite, to flood those that disagree.