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I Stand With Orlando

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“There’s been another shooting,” Sunshine said. “It’s bad.”

And to begin with, I thought nothing of it. America: there’s been another shooting- it happens every other day, and it’s never news.

I didn’t realise until later the blow he’d been trying to protect me from. Arguably* the deadliest mass shooting in US history, and LGBT people were the target.

It happened in Pulse nightclub, a sanctuary. “Pulse” refers to the heartbeat of the founder’s brother- after he died from HIV-related illness, she wanted him to live through the club. Now, the name of the club will be significant for different reasons.

Apparently the shooter** had seen two men kissing not a month before, and this enraged him past the point of reason. His already flourishing homophobia became motive for murder. He bought two firearms, constructed a diversionary explosive, and murdered at least (people are still dying) 50 people.

As it was Latinx night, many of the victims were Latinx. And although there is no evidence as of yet that the race of the victims mattered to the killer, this will undoubtedly have hit the LGBT Latinx community hard. POC communities need sanctuaries like Pulse more than white people do. They need to feel safe more than white LGBT people do.

Where do they go to feel safe now?

As I stood vigil in Manchester’s Sackville Gardens, at the centre of the Village, I heard the same fear echoed again and again: it could have been here. It could have been us.

I mean, it couldn’t have been us, because in this country a member of the public couldn’t just buy two assault rifles, but hey ho. Apparently guns need constitutional rights more than people do.

But throughout the world, LGBT people are afraid. Because we know we are hated. And we know that hate can get us killed.

We’re all familiar with it. I’ve got a “Christian” popping up in my comments telling me to repent or perish. What a love-thy-neighbourly thing to do.

And it’s that kind of socially acceptable homophobia that makes acts like the Orlando murders possible. It’s the 200+ anti-LGBT bills posted across 35 states. It’s Sky News pretending the sexuality of the victims was incidental to the crime. It’s the straight people who said, “Je Suis Charlie” for days and are silent now.

But I will not be silent.

I don’t think I understood Pride until Sunday. I thought I shouldn’t make a big deal about being gay, or trans. But now I get it.

Straight people, in general, will not speak out for us. They will not cry out when we are murdered. They will stand by as we are stripped of human rights. Quite often, they don’t even notice, because the straight media doesn’t let them know.

So we have to do it. And we have to be visible, because in a homophobic world, that is our defiance.

We will not be afraid.

We will not be silent.

We stand with Orlando.

* ; links to external sites are not indicative of the views of the author, more the author’s admission that he doesn’t actually know much about US history or mass shootings and isn’t going to pretend that he does.

**Not named here because he doesn’t deserve to be remembered.

The Politics of Unhappiness

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Yesterday, somebody on a nonbinary Facebook group that I am a part of asked a question:

“If you had the chance, would you have chosen not to be queer/nonbinary?”

Beneath that were a barrage of “no” answers.

There’s this little thing called respectability politics, where minorities have to live up to certain anti-stereotypical traits in order to be acceptable to the mainstream. Gay men cannot be too camp. Black women must not be sassy. And so on.

The cardinal sin for any queer person, of course, is not to have pride. We are not supposed to resent our lack of basic rights, our reduced access to vital services, our role as social pariahs. Because we’re supposed to be proud. In Queer As Folk (UK), Rosalie hurls homophobic abuse at Vince. She later condones her actions- Vince is not “proud”, so how can he complain?

I don’t really want to go into the reasons why queer people must be visibly happy in order to be acceptable. I haven’t researched it. So, although I have a theory that it might be necessary to assuage the guilt of privileged but sympathetic allies, I cannot say for certain.

So, what then for those who are unhappy with their lot? What then for those who are long-term unemployed, lonely, estranged from their family? What then for those to whom a pride parade is nothing more than shrouding their genuine, justified pain in all the colours of the rainbow?

Being unhappy in a culture of “pride” is agony. Not everyone has the same journey- some people’s parents are supportive, some people have a strong network of friends, some people have a stable job with an accommodating company. And others don’t. The latter are the ones that need support the most, and yet, because they don’t fit with the respectable model of what a queer person is supposed to be, they’re sidelined.

Why do we think suicide rates are so high for queer and especially trans people? Could it be that never getting to say, “I am unhappy,” might take its toll on someone?

When asked if I would have chosen to be born straight and cis, I said yes. Because although I know I am a better person because of it (more open-minded, for example), I am tired. I’m tired of fighting the good fight, of writing to my MP and MEPs, to various governing bodies, to banks, supermarkets… and for what reward? An Mx on my railcard? It’s just not enough.

Not enough when I’m so tired of slowly martyring myself so that the next generation of nonbinary people can grow up with all the privileges I grew old too quickly to enjoy.

And you know what surprised me? That my reply, the only admission of weakness in a string of proud, happy messages, got the most likes. From people who hadn’t replied on the thread themselves.

These people were watching this thread, this tirade of unending, unrelenting pride. Thinking, “what the fuck is wrong with me? Why can’t I just be happy?” So the second someone stood up and said, “I am unhappy. And I have a right to be unhappy,” that broke the levee. Their pain was valid.

So, think about that this pride season. How not being proud is seen as a failing not of a society that refuses to grant gender recognition to many trans people, but of those people themselves. Respect shame.