I have trouble finding the words to express what I’ve felt since the tragic shooting at a gay club in Orlando, partly because I’ve felt so many things. Sadness, rage, frustration, numbness, even joy at seeing the outpouring of love following yet another tragic event.
I don’t know what to say to my straight friends to make them understand – really understand – the deep wound inflicted on our community. I don’t know how to explain that I’ve never once in my 19-year relationship with my spouse spontaneously held her hand or kissed her in public, and how Sunday’s events reaffirmed my inability to do so. How I must make split-second decisions about whether it’s safe for me to show affection, even in the bastion of liberalness that is my home in Brooklyn, NY. How I must make the mental calculation of “is this safe? Should I risk it?” each time I want to give my partner a squeeze. How I must determine whether I’m ready for the dirty looks or the assaults (verbal or physical) that may meet us.
Read more: The Orlando Attack Cannot Silence LGBT Pride
I don’t know what to say to the politicians, the journalists, the neighbors who perpetuate homophobia by erasing its clear role in Sunday’s events. The shooter claimed to have ties to ISIL. That doesn’t change the fact that this was a hate crime, perpetrated against the gay community in a club – a safe haven, a sacred space. That this was a massacre of epic proportions levied at MY community. My people. My family. Because we are all family. Because we’ve learned to be each others’ sisters and brothers, and to look out for one another when no one else was willing. Although I didn’t know any of the victims personally, these beautiful people were my community. My family.
I don’t know what to say to the people who insist on spinning this into a more palatable, clean-cut narrative. One that maybe sits a little easier with those who have spewed hatred and vitriol against the queer community for decades. One that doesn’t create an uncomfortably close link between hate speech and hate crime.
I don’t know how to handle the gut-wrenching feeling that I let myself fall into complacency about my safety, about my community’s safety. Our Supreme Court acknowledges we have a right to marry, and our Facebook feeds are filled with rainbow flags. We’ve begun to believe that everything is okay, despite the 100+ anti-LGBT laws currently pending around the country—including this blocked bill that comes just days after the Orlando shootings. But casual violence against the queer community has actually increased over the last ten years. Thoughts and prayers don’t help much when you’re fired from your job or being kicked out of your home. Or, murdered in a nightclub.
I don’t know what to say to those who argue at the top of their lungs that gun regulation isn’t the answer. Except, it is, at least in part. Why is it okay for someone who isn’t deemed safe enough to fly on an airplane allowed access to military-grade weaponry? What is wrong with us that it’s okay to live with the daily fear that we may be shot while grocery shopping, going to the movies, enjoying a night out dancing? When our president has held more press conferences addressing mass shootings than state dinners, what does this say about us as a nation? As a people?
I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to feel. I know this is a complicated, messy tragedy. But I know that my heart hurts and my head hurts. And I’m really angry. And my community is, too.