For Orlando

It’s not about us.

Half a world away a city grieves and it’s not about us.

Let their voices be heard – let queer Latinx hearts bleed and mourn in Orlando.

Say the names of the dead and wounded. Hear their stories.

It’s not about us.

I will not presume to own this tragedy, because I have no experience of my sexual identity intersecting with my racial identity in ways that double down on my oppression.

But watching so many people try and erase the bitter, twisted knot of homophobia at the heart of this tragedy, I will own the echo in my own heart, my own history. Do not be fooled – this was not an attack on ‘Western’ values; not an attack on people just having fun in a nightclub.

This is about us.

This is for those of us who have ever walked into a space just like that one, and felt safe, for the first time, to be who we really were. A space where we didn’t have to worry about who we looked at, or smiled at. A space where we were beautiful, and free, and yes, proud of who we were and the road we had walked to get there.

This is about those of us who still look around before taking our lover’s hand on the street; those of us who know that still, today, every conversation about our personal lives can turn on a knife edge of hatred or disgust, or worse, turn on a knife.

And if you’re reading this and think I am exaggerating: sit down, shut up and listen. Read all the queer words you can find in response to this, this devastation of our safe spaces. Read the words by queer people of colour first.

Because rumours are rising that this sick and damaged man, this wielder of terror and horror, this gun man – that he was known to the patrons and staff of the Pulse nightclub. That he beat his wife and got blind drunk at gay clubs and became homicidally enraged at watching two men kiss in public. That his father is very keen to tell us he wasn’t a practicing Muslim, but equally keen to tell us his son wasn’t gay.

This is about us.

Because we’ve met that kind of hatred, too. Not knowing if you’re going home with a lover who will beat you after. Drowning your self-hatred in drink. The epidemic levels of internalised and externalised queer-on-queer violence that we can’t even discuss for fear of the ammunition that will hand to our oppressors.

And as a result the borders we draw so tight around ourselves that we leave half of our community shivering on the street. Including me.

And this still isn’t about me.

But I know that between the struggle to live queer in this world and the struggle to be seen and accepted as a not-quite-gay-enough woman in the scene; between the fear of violence and rejection and the warm, loving man in my bed, I know it has been 17 years since I last entered a gay club.

Nearly 20 years, brothers and sisters, since my last Pride.

And I am not the only one. So I’ve spent two days now scrambling and rearranging and apologising and organising to get to an event I walked away from, heartbroken, feeling like I didn’t belong, and wasn’t represented, and wasn’t spoken for.

To stand side by side with disabled friends and sick friends and trans and non-binary friends and yes, queer people of colour.

Because it takes something like this to remember that terror has never been able to force us into the shadows. Not with Stonewall, not with the Admiral Duncan, and not now. Not ever.

Get out your dancing shoes, my darlings. Are you ready to take our Pride back?
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