Like most of you, we at IMRU are struggling to make some sense of what happened at Pulse in Orlando this week. The truth is, of course, such violence and hatred can never make sense and there is little one can do to ease the pain.
But here we are, again, watching our community be the target of hate – precious beautiful queer lives taken at the moment they thought they were safe and among family. No, nothing quite like this has ever happened in the US before, yet violence against us is not new.
This is Pride month, let us remember why. Our modern LGBTQ movement was born this month almost 50 years ago because the most marginalized of an already marginalized community – street kids, trans men and women, drag queens, queers of color – had had enough of the hatred. They had enough of division, being labeled perverts, being told they were a threat to everything good. Our queer forebears resisted because they knew they were right. They fought for their dignity, they fought for the idea of love. This was Pride.
During the height of the AIDS epidemic in this country, again, the rhetoric of division took our lives. AIDS was something we deserved, we were told. AIDS wasn’t a priority because it affected “those people.” But we fought for our lives, our dignity, our right to love — even as we were dying. We would make the world see the power of that love. This was Pride.
And still, as drag queens get bashed, queer kids get kicked out of their homes, queers of faith, queers of color are alienated from their communities, as trans refugees are unable to return to their home countries, Pride is a reminder of the power of love to transcend oppression. Pride may be a party sometimes, but that’s only because we know what the stakes are. It’s a celebration of the fact that we are still here, stronger, more diverse, determined to live fiercely, determined to love no matter what. We have lost so many lives to get here, and Pride means that those losses will never be in vain.
Whether this particular act was motivated by ISIS, by the sight of two men kissing, or by some other insanity that we don’t yet understand, it was not likely random. Whatever the declared rationale, our community was again the target of violence – as so many communities are – because of who we were perceived to be. From daily, petty acts of bigotry, to the attacks in Paris, Istanbul, or Orlando, there is almost aways a core idea that there is an “other,” unworthy kind of human that has been sown over time. This is the rhetoric of division. And it gave one young man with a gun a rationale to walk into a local club, during Pride month, and take 50 of our lives, and to harm so many more.
That rhetoric has power, no doubt. But it is also folly. This was a terrorist act, it was an attack on America, it was an attack against people of color, it was an attack against the LGBTQ community, and it was an attack against humanity. It was all of these things at once, impossible to neatly parse.
May we come to a time when Pride is a given and that we see that division between us based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or country of origin is only a way to keep us down. The alternative is one human family, built on a foundation of dignity and love, and that is powerful.
May we stop seeing those who are different as the “other” but as one of our own. The folks who went to Pulse on Saturday night were our own, whether we knew them or not. We will not forget them.
We would like to dedicate tonight’s show to all those whose lives were taken at Pulse in Orlando, to those who were injured and to all of their loved ones. Our love goes out to you tonight.
Abby Dees & IMRU