There are no words for what happened in Orlando last night; or rather there are too many and none of them are quite right.
There is the fact that I have already seen people asking not to politicize this tragedy, saying we can not blame the hateful ideology of a presidential candidate, or gun laws for what happened. It’s true there is no one thing that convinces someone to take a gun and use it to kill people he perceives to be “different” and “wrong.” But this didn’t happen without context. There are many ifs. If he hadn’t been able to access a weapon that can kill many people in a short period of time. If he hadn’t been exposed to political agendas that say that LGBTQ folks don’t deserve basic rights and heard the underlying message that queer folks, trans folks, and people of color don’t matter and don’t deserve to be alive. If if if.
There is the grief for the queer folks who died while celebrating their identities. It’s pride month. It was latin night at Pulse. It is a time of joy and community and conversation about how to make our communities stronger. There is grief for the families and loved ones of these queer folks, and the knowledge that family often looks different in the queer community. There is imagining the fear of not knowing if someone you love was hurt because you’re not “next of kin” on government forms.
There is anger that this could happen. Why did this fucking happen? Why did this have to happen? Why has this been happening in smaller, less publicized ways for years and why hasn’t it been stopped? Why is my queerness perceived as such a threat that people debate if me and my community deserve basic rights and safety? Why are trans women considered threats when they want to pee, when they are part of a community that constantly has to worry for it’s own safety?
There is fear for those I love, for copycat attacks that will follow, for losing more queer people, who are just trying to live.
There is a sense of impotence for what I can not change, and for the privilege I have that means I am less at risk for these kinds of attacks because I am white and middle class and cisgender.
And there is love. Love for my queer community. Love for the people who are already organizing vigils and donating blood and writing their representatives. Love for the others afraid for their own safety. Love for the grieving and the bereft. Love for Muslim folks in the U.S. (especially LGBTQ+ Muslim folk) who already are the scapegoats for so many tragedies.
It can feel trite to quote Martin Luther King Jr but since reading about the shooting, what has circled in my brain is this:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
We have to continue to love each other as hard as we possibly can. The root of justice is love. The root of our community has always been love. In heartbreaking times like this, love is all we have.