Rise and Revel — A Response to The Pulse Massacre.
From the age I was able to understand the world around me, I’ve been afraid. I understood that because of who I was, there was always the potential for the violence in others to erupt, and to consume everything I am. Year by year I’ve had constant reminders that at any moment, someone could decide to erase me from the world, from my family, from my friends. From the men that I’ve been so terribly in love with that it feels like my heart is beating by their grace alone. But terrified and wary is no way to live minute by minute, hour by hour. So I push the fear back, push it down. “It’s 2016,” I tell myself, as if the year is meaningful, as if it’s a mantra I can recite to shield myself from the hate, from harm. I tell myself that people are different now, I convince myself that none of them would want to hurt or kill us anymore;
Until they do.
When I heard what happened in Orlando, I was half-asleep, dazed and completely unprepared. I thought for a second that it was a lie. Or a mistake maybe, or a nightmare I hadn’t fully woken up from. But then my head caught up to my heart, and I knew it was true. I could feel the familiar words inside me, working through my veins, towards my heart, hollowing me out along the way. The words I think every time; It’s happened again. We’ve been attacked. We’ve been targeted. We’ve been killed. We’ve been erased. I could feel the pain, the loss, the degradation coming in crippling waves for the dead, from the mourning. And it rippled, building as it spread. It cascaded across cities, states, countries. One thousand, two hundred and eighty one miles away, my heart skipped and sunk like a stone, and then it broke.
It’s happened again.
And memories hitch a ride with the pain as it bubbles up to the surface. My head slammed into walls, windows, doors, or concrete. My body broken and used to channel another’s hate. My mind plagued by the constant and unrelenting fear for my life. My heart shamed and shattered for the love it felt. My voice silenced for the sake of keeping the comforts of ignorance intact. My aspirations for my future never forming because I never really expected that I’d live past eighteen. I am heavy and hollow, helpless and hopeless. I crumble under the weight of this, feel the full force of the gravity of it. But through the memories of the pain, like a blade, cuts the one truth I’ve always known to be self-evident. That this feeling, the way I rise and revel in elation when my lips touch his, this is the most powerful thing in the world.
But I’ve betrayed that truth, betrayed myself and you. I grew complacent, got tired of fighting for us. I thought I’d done my work, done my part. I thought that someone else would pick up the torch, carry it farther than I could. I thought that a person couldn’t carry this forever without breaking until they were wholly broken. And now I stand here, one thousand, two hundred and eighty one miles away, in the wake of so many of us dead or injured, and I know I was wrong. I’ve become exactly what I was trying not to be. I am broken. And I’m angry. And I’m ashamed.
And I am sorry. I am so sorry.
I’m sorry for how I failed us all, but especially how I let this new generation down. That I thought it was progress that when they hear the name Matthew Shepard, their faces don’t fall, that they don’t see in their mind what some of us can never unsee. A young gay man, beaten within in an inch of his life, left broken and bloody, tied to a fence to die alone and afraid. And his killers did this to torture him, but also to send a message to the rest of us. This is what happens when you’re a queer. When your love is so strong that you refuse to hide it, even if it might cost you your life.
I’ve tried to see his name fading from our minds as a good thing, as proof of progress. That you might not remember it, or that you might not ever have known his name; that was the tangible evidence that change was happening. You don’t need to know his name, because things like The Night of the Long Knives, like Stonewall, like The Bathhouse Raids, like Laramie or Little Pond, Blah Bar or West Greenwich, like Pulse; that they just don’t happen here anymore. And they don’t.
Until they do.
I’m sorry. Sorry for repressing the ache of desolation I felt for all of us that were killed for our love leading up to this. For forgetting David Kato, Michael Boothe, Alexandre Peixe dos Santos, Harvey Milk, Michael Doran, January Marie Lapuz, Charlie Self, Brian Williamson, Gisberta Salce Júnior, Tyler Clementi, Rebecca Wight and Claudia Brenner, Brandon Teena, Sakia Gunn. For not bringing attention to so many more that didn’t reach the media, whose murders went without outrage, without notice. I’m sorry that as I watched the It Gets Better campaign as an adult with tears in my eyes, I pushed that ache back down, and walked away without contributing. I’m sorry for thinking that one more voice wouldn’t or couldn’t make a difference.
And I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I waited this long, that it took this much loss for me to realize we’ve been losing all along. But please, I don’t want your forgiveness. There is no absolution from a sin as deadly as complacency. All I want is to do better, to do more, to do right. And in the wildest of my dreams, if any of this echoes something that’s stirring inside you, you’ll do the same.
We’re not done yet. We’re still so sorely needed. Every day more of us are born, born into a world that every day more of us are taken from. To move forward, to make this right, we need to see, without bias or colouring, what’s happening around us right now. But we also need to remember those that came before us, that were killed for being like us. Our history, the record of our subjugation does not define us, but it leads us, directs us to where we are needed. Yes, history repeats, it skips; advancing without warning and regressing in kind. But after every terrible thing we’ve faced, we’ve always moved forward with purpose and grace. And it’s because we’ve always known we’d win. Always known that love truly can negate hate, that an army of lovers cannot lose. Always known one thing to be self-evident.
That this feeling, the way I rise and revel in pride when my lips touch his, this is the most powerful thing in the world.