How does one even begin to articulate everything that is surfacing in relation to the Orlando shooting? If you ask me, there are so many layers, and each layer is packed with its own emotions. No shooting is easy to process… we are always left wondering how people can be so cruel and evil, and at the same time imagining how incredibly frightening and terrible those final moments were for the victims. Today, we get inundated with images and videos of those final moments… screenshots of those final text messages. We get as close to living it as is possible. We each have to navigate our own vicarious trauma, and there is a lot of that in our international LGBT+ community this week. As with many of you, I am grappling with some seriously heavy feelings on this one, let me tell you.
So how do I move forward? I have to move forward. I can continue to scroll through my Facebook feed, continually revisiting the faces of those who have passed. I can continue to scroll past the tangental bigots, fundamentalists and extremists, praising this attack as a cleanse of pedophiles. I can sift through the infinite assumptions and beliefs about the whos, whys, wheres, and hows. And, to be entirely honest, I will continue to do these things. However, I will also be cognizant of the fact that I need Facebook silence at times, turning my phone off, and being still, alone or in the presence of my friends. It can simply be too much… it all gets overwhelming. Gun control. Internalized homophobia. Terrorism. Homophobia. Extremism and fundamentalism. Inclusion and exclusion. Politicization of LGBT+ lives. Transphobia. Racism. Mental health. Gay rights and equal marriage. Bigotry. Muslims. Christians. Faggots. …There is just too much happening.
I want to move forward by writing, and I want to write about the gratitude I feel, honouring the positive that so easily darkens amidst such tragedy. And so that is what I will do…
…I am grateful for:
…the people who have made an intentioned point to check in with me, who have written to me, who have texted me. These people, without explicitly saying it, know whole-heartedly that this massacre has very real impacts on our collective LGBT+ community worldwide. These people recognize that this was an attack on LGBT+ people… on our progress, on our liberty, on our pride, and on me. These lives that were lost were not my friends… But, they were friends of friends. A friend of mine was in Orlando, partying at Pulse just the weekend before. Orlando may be far away, but it is right here within me. It is close, I am so thankful to those people in my life who recognize the impacts. You, my friends, are true allies. Thank you for your allyship.
…the people who are not muddying the discussion with hatred of the middle-east, Muslims, Islam, etc. In my opinion, the word “Terrorist” is moot. It is far too heavily-weighted in racism and opinion, so much so that it is derailing the reality of the situation and deflecting the world from the very real issue: Homophobia. Thank you to these people, like Owen Jones, for seeing things as they are and speaking out about it, even if upon deaf ears.
…the religious folks who are supporting the LGBT community, like the gathering of a Muslim community in NYC, and speaking out against the extremist bigots, reprimanding them for bringing shame upon their religious communities. There is no line between Muslim and Gay, just as there is no line between Christian and Lesbian. Gay muslims are in our community, lesbian christians are in our community. Thank you for standing up for us and in solidarity with us and the lives lost.
…the people on Facebook who are joy-dropping heartwarming and hilarious memes and videos. These people are striving to ignite laughter and slather us in smiles. We mustn’t forget that we are creatures of joy. Thank to for making me smile.
…the woman on the bus today who saw that I was teary-eyed. “I know how you feel. Just remember to always choose love. Fear will get you nowhere.” She was a stranger. I was a stranger. But she understood. Thank you for understanding.
…the man at the bike shop today. I had just received a lovely message that moved me to tears, just as I was trying to pay for my bike-repairs. When he brought my bike to me, a bike that is plastered in colour and rainbows, he looked at me with such incredible kindness. He looked at me in such a way that I felt accepted, welcomed, and supported. Sometimes it doesn’t even take a word. Thank you for your kind eyes.
…the community of Vancouver that came out to the Vigil on Sunday. And to everyone who brought their hearts, their flames, their flags, and their tears. As I sat up on the paw of the giant, cement lion, I was immensely moved by what I was witnessing. We had a moment of silence together, and then a moment of noise… and that noise, that solid surge of togetherness, shook me to the core. It healed me. It united us. It honoured Orlando. Thank you for making noise.
…the activists who are planning their next letter to their nearest politicians, their next stand in solidarity, their next fundraiser, their next attempt to push back against oppressive cultures, their next mission to reform gun policy. Your efforts are exactly what is needed. We have been ignited by this act of hate, and if history tells us anything about the LGBT+ community, is that we get shit done. I keep reflecting upon ActUp! and how much effort and energy it took to get people living with AIDS and HIV the respect and treatment they deserved. There are things we can change, and we must continue working together to make those changes. To those activists… thank you for activating.
…the heroes of Orlando who consoled their loved ones in a time of terror, who plugged the gushing wounds of their friends and family, and who carried their maimed lovers to safety. You were there in a time of crisis, and your efforts to help our own will never be forgotten. Your futures are going to have scars of that night, trauma and stress will be in your body for decades if not your lifetime. Know that you did good things that scary night… you helped save lives. Thank you for being a hero.
…the Vancouverite who was attacked on the way to the Vigil for having a rainbow flag. You came forward and told your story. Thank you for carrying that flag with you. Thank you for not feeling too shy or too afraid to do so… thank you for your courage, your bravery and your confidence. Thank you for being someone others can look up to.
…the people who invite others into their groups, abolishing acts of exclusion within our community. This gunman was reportedly in the club over some years, sitting alone in the corner. I wonder, was this man suffering from social exclusion? Was he struggling to understand his own sexuality? How many people disregarded his presence? How many didn’t? Exclusion is unbearable for humans, a species whose whole survival is based on group relations, physical contact and support. To the folks who go chat with the lone-clubgoers, no matter their appearance… thank you for being inclusive. Cliques can be deadly, so thank you for relaxing yours.
I am sure there are more opportunities to express gratitude. And, I intend to add to this list as the days move on and I continue to reflect. What I know is I have to keep finding the positive, honouring the good, and recognizing our wins as a community.
We will get through this, stronger than ever. What is clear, is that there is a lot of work that needs to be done. So many people are living in fear, fear of themselves for being LGBT+, fear of others who hate LGBT+ and fear of such tragedy striking again. What I intend to do this summer, as these months of Pride pass us by, is wearing my colours proudly, remembering the 49 lives who were senselessly taken away from us, the 49 lives who are inspiring change and collective gathering across the world, 49 lives who will forever and always be in our hearts as we move forward in our LGBT+ movement. For the rest of my life I will remember these 49. I will be walking with my rainbows everywhere I go… this year, my Pride starts now.
Thank you to the 49 for making our world a better place.