Since the news broke yesterday the mainstream media has done several really good pieces about the incident, that are out of the way, and not as commonly shared as the more informational ones. That helping to contextualize why our narratives as LGBT+ people, and not allowing this to fall into time worn tropes and outrage-attention-robbing culture of the broadcast news cycle that will chew this up and spit it out like so much regurgitated junk food. Cable News has made a cottage industry out of this, and will Exposure Troll its way into further page clicks, video views, and parade an endless stream of grieving parents, the father of the alleged shooter, and a host walking off a television program in protest to keep us glued to their particular brand of grief-porn.
So in the spirit of not letting the victims of this tragedy have their narratives warped into jingoistic and Islamophobic demagoguery, and the many in the packed to capacity club as well, who were victims too and will live with this horror their entire lives and are a part of the viewing audience that is seeing their pain, along with their loved ones warped into a rather sickening display of much of what is wrong with our society’s impulses in the face of tragedy.
Saying a lot during Pride Month, about how they are viewed, commodified, erased, co-opted, and further distorted along personal and political lines to flow through a very narrow-minded sieve. These stories, many personal, help contextualize some, but not all of the issues around this particular circumstances.
As the grim news continues to come in from Orlando, as the death toll continues to rise, and the lines at the blood banks continue to grow, and the thoughts and prayers begin to stack up, one ugly phrase clanks around in my head: “angry at two men kissing.”
But here’s the thing: terrorism toward LGBT people is a redundancy.
“Most people can grieve or they’re given the space to mourn, but I immediately started thinking: Oh my god.”
Amidst the public mourning on social feeds in the days after the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, I encountered a particular, heartbreaking form of grief from queer Muslims, grappling with an attack on their sexual identity while also preparing for an Islamophobic backlash. “We have to brace ourselves for what’s coming,” said Lali Mohamed, at the end of a long conversation less than 48 hours after the violence. Mohamed, 28, is a community activist from Toronto, and he identifies as black, gay, and Muslim. “My blackness is important,” he said, “because so often when we talk about queer Muslims, we talk about Desi Muslims. By naming ourselves we refuse to be erased: for me that’s important work.” Lali shared his story with me, and he also talked about how the ripple effects of Orlando — from policy to policing — may end up oppressing the very same people that need the most protection.
Pulse was where I learned to love myself as a gay man.
I grew up just ten minutes away from Pulse, the gay nightclub in Orlando where a gunman shot and killed more than 50 people early Sunday morning. Before coming out, I actually drove past it often, but I never really understood the role it would eventually play in my life.
Growing up in a black and brown community where hyper-masculinity was acted out as a form of survival, I actually grew up hating on Pulse. In my community, like in so many others around the world, my identity as a gay man was viewed as a form of weakness. So much so that even when I came out, I refused to go to gay clubs because it meant that I would be one of “those gay men.”
‘The goal of’ these murders ‘is to sequester and keep us hidden.’
“Heartbroken” was the one-word response from Imam Daayiee Abdullah, America’s only openly gay imam, to the attack that took the lives of 49 people at a popular gay night club in Orlando.
“Historically, the LGBT community has suffered violence on an individual basis in America,” said the 62-year-old African-American imam, who’s also a lawyer. “We have seen it from isolated cases like Matthew Shepard’s murder to 28 members of the LGBT community being killed in a fire targeting a gay night club in New Orleans in 1978 and the list goes on.” He added: “the goal of this violence is to sequester and keep us (gays) hidden because some are afraid of change and of people who are different.”
In Honor of Our Dead: Queer, Trans, Muslim, Black — We Will Be Free
It is with pain and heartache that the Black Lives Matter Network extends love, light, protection, and abundance to our family in Orlando, Florida. We love you. Black people are a diverse community, and though the hate-filled rhetoric of the conservative right is currently trying to pit us against our kin — we will always stand with all the parts of ourselves. Today, Queer, Latinx, and Muslim family, we lift you up.
Despite the media’s framing of this as a terrorist attack, we are very clear that this terror is completely homegrown, born from the anti-Black white supremacy, patriarchy and homophobia of the conservative right and of those who would use religious extremism as a weapon to gain power for the few and take power from the rest. Those who seek to profit from our deaths hope we will forget who our real enemy is, and blame Muslim communities instead.
But we will never forget.
To discuss Latin American culture without mentioning the role of dancing would be myopic; to discuss gay culture without mentioning the role of dancing is to ignore an essential component of self-definition. With more than a hundred dead or wounded at Pulse in Orlando, it’s worth noting that it was the gay club’s Latin night that drew the formidable crowd. That the massacre took place as Pride events unfold in glitter and sweat from coast to coast, in a city with one of the largest Puerto Rican populations in the country, adds more poignancy than the heart can stand.
Has the word “Latinx” ever come across your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram? The letter “x,” instead of say an “o” or an “a,” is not a typo. In fact, that final letter is very intentional.
The “x” makes Latino, a masculine identifier, gender-neutral. It also moves beyond Latin@ – which has been used in the past to include both masculine and feminine identities – to encompass genders outside of that limiting man-woman binary.
Latinx, pronounced “La-teen-ex,” includes the numerous people of Latin American descent whose gender identities fluctuate along different points of the spectrum, from agender or nonbinary to gender non-conforming, genderqueer and genderfluid.
Outside, you are hated and politicized. Inside, you are free.
If you’re lucky, they’ll play some Latin cheese, that Aventura song from 15 years ago. If you’re lucky, there will be drag queens and, if so, almost certainly they will be quick, razor-sharp with their humor, giving you the kind of performances that cut and heal all at once. If you’re lucky, there will be go-go boys, every shade of brown.
Maybe your Ma blessed you on the way out the door. Maybe she wrapped a plate for you in the fridge so you don’t come home and mess up her kitchen with your hunger. Maybe your Tia dropped you off, gave you cab money home. Maybe you had to get a sitter. Maybe you’ve yet to come out to your family at all, or maybe your family kicked you out years ago. Forget it, you survived.
Good intentions mixed with denture ads
“What a story,” Megyn Kelly of Fox News intoned last night, with her characteristic knack for theatrical understatement. Over at MSNBC, Brian Williams’ new role as “breaking news” specialist was vividly on display as he smartly anchored “Terror in Orlando” for many hours and at one point segued right into commercials for Allstate, the Alzheimer’s Association, Experian, Esurance, Trivago, Flonase allergy relief and WeatherTech car mats.
Over on CNN, a large assemblage of on-air talent air-lifted into Orlando included Don Lemon, who reassured us that people “in the community” were “happy we’re here to tell the story.” It was then time for ads for CenturyLink, Uber, Super Poligrip and CNN’s own Morgan Spurlock. Commerce was a cable handmaiden for tragedy. If you can turn presidential debates into a profit center, why not a mass shooting?
My first gay bar was Crowbar. Like all great gay bars, Crowbar was a dump: dark, low-ceilinged, shitty sound system. It was off Tompkins Square Park and Avenue B, when Tompkins Square Park was still a place you’d go to to buy drugs. It smelled like mildew, urine, cheap vodka, and Designer Imposters body spray. It’s long gone—made extinct like too many wonders by gentrification and Giuliani—but for a hot moment in the ’90s, it was the single most fabulous place in the galaxy. Dance moves were invented there. People went in, and when they came out, they weren’t just drunk—they were different people. That’s how powerful its juju was.
Hate violence directed at a marginal group has a long, troubling history.
This is a thing we do, we straight girls. Especially cis, straight, femme girls. We maintain intimate friendships with beautiful gay men, basking in their appreciation of our femininity, jointly appraising male sexiness, seeking expert opinions on relationships, and invading party spaces. Here we dance, let loose, sing out loud, and enjoy ourselves without fear of predatory male sexual attention. Straight girls love gay male public spaces because they feel like safe spaces. The Orlando massacre reminds us this safety is an illusion of our relative privilege. Not even gay public space is safe space to be gay.
This space will be updated regularly as more PoC voices come forth, process their pain, and tell their stories.