Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What Happened in Orlando Opened Wounds in Gay People Thousands of Miles Away

There's no rule book for offering advice on how best to handle a tragedy. We all experience horrific events that happen throughout life in our own way. Some of us get angry and become vocal public activists, while others quietly volunteer at the nearest LGBT community center. There's no right or wrong way to help. Each approach is needed. The key thing to remember is to DO SOMETHING when and if you can. It's apathy that kills a community. Not bullets or beatings or anti-LGBT laws. Apathy.

I was moved by the honesty evident in this article, "How to Talk to a Queer Person Who is Afraid of Dying". It was written by Carlos Maza and in it he shares how he experienced so much fear upon hearing the news of the Pulse Nightclub Massacre.

Carlos Maza writes:
I wish I could say I attended a rally or a vigil, or even just got drunk at a bar with my queer brothers and sisters. I wish I could say I became a living testament to LGBT courage in the face of violence and hatred.

But I didn’t. I lay on my couch and imagined being shot and killed in a bathroom.

I understand why so many people have chosen to respond to the massacre in Orlando with proud public displays of solidarity with and support for the LGBT community. The history of LGBT people in the United States is a story of resilience, even in the face of incredible pain and loss. We respond to a world that asks us to disappear by chanting, “We’re here! We’re queer! Get used to it!” We celebrate Pride partly as an act of defiance and perseverance. 
After the shooting in Orlando, it’s tempting to push ahead to the part where the LGBT community pulls itself up by its bootstraps and recommits to fighting bigotry and making the world a more welcoming place. I am tempted by that, too.

At the same time, LGBT people aren’t superheroes. What happened in Orlando opened wounds in people thousands of miles away from the gunman. LGBT people are grappling with the fact that there is no such thing as a “safe space,” that we created the idea of a “safe space” to stay sane, but it is an illusion.

It’s hard to overstate the mental and emotional damage that realization has on queer people. For me, it has been a profoundly isolating experience. Fear makes you want to retreat from the world, makes you want to stop talking and pull away from anything that might put you at risk. READ MORE