feature image via shutterstock
Here’s a story I will never in my life be able to come to terms with no matter how many more times I hear it: a man decided to amass himself with weapons suited for war, went to the gay club, and ended the lives of 49 people in a single night. Initially it was speculated that the motive was a kiss — the sight of two men kissing, but the kind of hate that’s required in this story takes grooming. It takes meticulous, repetitive effort, from multiple vectors. This idea, though, of the kiss, has been significant enough that it’s made its way into most — if not every news source, even if later developments have contextualized that differently, have suggested that this story is not so obviously originated from a single point.
I keep thinking about the men he allegedly, maybe, reportedly saw kissing from their perspective. If in that moment they registered his presence. If for a second they hesitated. If like me when I’m in public, their heads were on a swivel, looking for every possible source of kickback. If when they did it anyway, they heard air puff, a word spit out of his mouth.
I know this moment; you do, too.
Like the time I told a white man on Halloween in an Osama Bin Laden costume he was being offensive and having him tell me I offend him everyday of the year.
Like the time I was on a bus with my girlfriend one night, felt lingering eyes on our hand holding, and when we were exiting hearing a man to our left say, “Next time I see you I’m going to rape you.”
Like when I signed up to be a member of Big Brothers Big Sisters where they’re legally obligated to reveal your sexual orientation to the parents, and even with this particular chapter’s overflow of kids, never being paired.
Like the time I had another woman shoved at me by a man who just found out I was gay.
Like the time I heard “fucking dyke” while peacefully overlooking the lake, “fucking dyke” at that tailgate party, “fucking dyke” at that bar that was always the last stop, “fucking dyke” from that group of girls who thought I was out of earshot.
Like the time I was at a my favorite queer dance party and got locked downstairs by staff for 30 minutes because of the targeted stabbings that just occurred upstairs.
Like the time we got kicked out of a restaurant mid-meal by the owner because of a kiss.
More often than not, I find myself spreading these moments out on my bed on mornings before Pride. I sit with them, politely flick each one of them off, and gather them neatly in prep for next year’s additions. They are reminders, each one, of how things could be worse but are not, that I am still here, and most importantly: that this shit is not about me anymore.
It’s about that girl I saw at the Orlando vigil who was so young and new in her queerness that she was chaperoned by her mom. It’s about those queens who have a categorical breakdown by decade of this kind of horror, who smiled but looked tired. It’s about that person who was on the other end of the line whose words were enough for their friends at the march to say together into the speaker, “Please, you have to come. We know that you’re scared but we love you.” It’s about those no longer with us, and those who still are. It’s about you, our family.
And oh boooooy will I continue to carry those moments where people are repulsed by my existence, and use them as tools to cushion each and everyone of of you, because what they don’t seem to get is that we will continue to show up and show out for y’all despite them, even if it really is the last thing we do.