Fucking hell, people.

[CONTENT NOTE: Orlando mass shooting and related issues; rape; mental health. No violent images or graphic descriptions.]

I was quite literally rendered speechless upon learning of the tragedy in Orlando Sunday morning. I cannot say I was surprised, though; mass public shootings in the US have been increasing, and it’s no secret that conservatives have been cranking up the hate against the LGBTQ community (just as they have against women, immigrants, religious minorities, the poor, the disabled, etc., and of course none of this is a coincidence). But I did (and do) feel traumatized—as in anxious, dissociating, difficulty concentrating, overwhelming sadness and anger, waking through the night with my heart pounding, super fun stuff like that. For an artist and writer who uses art and writing to process life and the world around her, such a state is nothing short of devastating. (<-See? Dissociating. I just referred to myself in the third person for no fucking reason FFS.)

I don’t write a lot about my personal life online, for many reasons I won’t go into here. But in this case some of that is relevant, and I think perhaps worth sharing.

For starters, on Sunday morning I wasn’t in a very good place mentally to begin with. Last week my feeds were all spewing fountains of rape full-time, between Brock Turner’s sentencing and his family’s rapist apologia, yet another member of atheist circles being outed as a serial predator, and a (now former) Facebook friend in an incredibly cruel and self-centered rape-denial shitstorm aimed at another friend and rape survivor. As a survivor myself, I pace my exposure to this topic, and proceed with caution only when I think I have the spoons to deal. That these things were happening all at once and everywhere—even in the spaces where I can normally expect to find safety, solidarity and solace—well, it had me reeling.

I also think that what makes this mass shooting particularly difficult to process is that it implicates multiple intersections of queerness, racism, homophobia, religion, policing, mental illness, terrorism, gun violence, domestic violence and more. Longtime readers will likely recognize all or most of these as issues about which I feel quite passionately. And all of this is in the context of an election year where the multiple cracks and fissures in US society are opening wider and wider, exposed for the gaping wounds they are. And have always been, really.

Also, I have a kind of convoluted standing in the LGBTQ community. Although I’ve long identified my orientation as bisexual, my long-term partner is a cishet man, I am a cis, femme woman and thus I possess no small amount of straight privilege. So my initial urge to attend Sunday’s vigil at Stonewall was quickly tempered by my feeling that it is “their” community that is most profoundly affected by the Orlando shootings, not “mine,” and that I ought to yield to those more directly impacted by the tragedy. In a quite literal sense of course, this is very much my community: I have lived in the West Village a few short blocks from Stonewall for many years, and I would go so far as to say that I found my “chosen family” right here in this neighborhood. And as fortune would have it, they chose me too. I am talking about close friendships of many years, as well as countless other friends and acquaintances all over the gender and sexual orientation spectra. NYC generally, and the West Village specifically, is the only place that I have ever felt truly at home.

Still, I just didn’t feel right going to a vigil. And as reports trickled back to us of the crowds at Stonewall swelling enormously, my anxiety kicked up a notch and completely foreclosed that possibility for good.

Upon reading this deeply moving account, however, I now regret not being there [h/t Scotty]:

Ken Kidd, a member of Queer Nation New York, which took the lead in organizing a rally outside the Stonewall Bar that drew several thousand people, told those assembled, “We come together because this is a community that will never be silent again.”…Saying the LGBT community should draw strength from the 50 Pulse nightclub patrons who were killed, Kidd said, “We must go forward in love.”

Mirna Haidar, a representative of the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, told the Stonewall crowd that she has faced discrimination in the US as a Muslim refugee and as a gender-nonconforming woman, but urged everyone to avoid allowing the LGBT community to be set against Muslim Americans because of the Orlando massacre.

At that point, a heckler started screaming, “It is a Muslim issue” over and over again. The crowd turned on the heckler, shouting, “No hate. No hate.”

♥♥♥!!!

Orlando.
Stonewall, Judson Church
Orlando.
Stonewall, Judson Church

Mirna Haidar of the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity.
(IMAGE: Donna Aceto)

Kevin Graves, a DJ and activist, framed the alternatives the nation faces in responding to Orlando.

“Make no mistake,” he said. “This country is at a crossroads with two alternatives. One is the path of hate and fear. The other is one of love and kindness. Choose the path of love. And action.”

I have been coming back to reflect on this moment again and again, as our banal media rushed to terror-monger (OMG ISIS!) before the blood was even dry, and I witnessed the utterly predictable backlash from gun fetishists, ignorant mooks, racists and bigots of every stripe —especially Islamaphobes—including their Rat King, Donald J(eezus fucking Christ I cannot believe this man could be president) Trump. You know, the usual villains: conservatives.

Well, I’m staking a claim. This is my community. These are my people. I am so, so grateful, humbled, and proud of their actions here.

Orlando.
Stonewall, Judson Church

Stonewall crowd, Sunday June 12, 2016.
(IMAGE: Donna Aceto)

Anyway.

Courtesy of my BFF and favorite congresscritter Alan Grayson, here are some things you can do to help if you are able and so inclined:

The Zebra Coalition has opened up a hotline to provide counseling. If you or someone you know needs this service, please call (407) 822-5036 and press #1 to speak to someone. You can donate to the Zebra Coalition to help it continue to provide this service by clicking here.

The GLBT Community Center of Central Florida is providing grief counseling, in both English and Spanish. If you or someone you know needs this service, the address is 946 N. Mills Avenue in Orlando. You can donate to the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida to help it continue to provide this service by clicking here.

Equality Florida is our state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization. They have set up a GoFundMe page for victims. You can donate to this fund by clicking here. You can also donate directly to Equality Florida to help it continue to fight for LGBT equality in Florida by clicking here.

Please also consider reaching out privately to friends in the LGBTQ community. Ask them how they are doing in the wake of this tragedy. And if you do nothing else, at the very least just listen to what they are telling you.

4 thoughts on “Fucking hell, people.

  1. It’s very likely that PFLAG chapters around the country will be holding vigils in the coming days. There’s one in my area tonight, which I plan to attend. It’s literally the only thing I can do to help (life sitch not great).

  2. My partner received calls of support from her siblings and her dad, who was terribly upset. I received a very kind e-mail of support from a church lady, but no calls from my family. I don’t know that it even occurred to them to call me. To them, this was another mass shooting leaving them feeling outraged and helpless, but I don’t think it occurred to anyone in my family that this happened in my community.

  3. I’m so sorry, Coco. I get feeling outraged and helpless at another shooting—to some extent I think we all feel that way. But the fact that this specific community was targeted fucking matters.

    • I agree—it absolutely does matter. And I don’t mean to let anyone off the hook for not getting that it does. This actually opened my eyes to the fact that I’m doing a poor job of communicating to my family who I am, that they didn’t even realize I could have been in that club; they didn’t even know to be scared for me or for the sake of their own family, or to tell me they’re sorry for what happened in my community, which is, of course, theirs, too, by their connection to me. This is the tragedy of it all—people falling for this mass-tranquilizing, to where they can’t think for themselves and instead rely on what they’re fed, becoming tired and numb.

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