Tuesday, June 14, 2016

"terror" in Orlando

The first I heard of it was "mass shooting at a nightclub." I wondered if it was a gay club. Then I told myself, "Knock it off. Straight people can get killed too you know." Well, not this time.

I saw the news headlines: "Terror in Orlando." Of course, it's only terror when a Muslim person does it. Or when it's a big enough story to make the news. When transgender people are killed individually, one by one, month by month, that's not terror. When a gay or lesbian teen is harassed into committing suicide, that's not terror. No decent white American Christian has ever terrorized anyone.

I see that I'm not the only one to remember the Upstairs Lounge fire. "Until the weekend’s horrific shooting, the largest massacre of gay people was an arson attack on a bar in New Orleans on June 24, 1973." No one was ever charged. The story goes that funeral parlors refused to accept the bodies of dead queers, and most churches refused to perform memorial services.

Do you think things are different now? On Monday I stayed off of Facebook. I didn't want to see condolences from straight people. I know their sympathy is genuine. But our deaths are the same. And indeed, sympathy is not the same as grief. I don't need to read more about the people who died, not right now. I don't need to learn their names in order to grieve. This is grief. There's no need to make it stronger.

It makes things no better if our deaths are politicized. It doesn't make things much better if some express sympathy while others, just recently, expressed their intention of harming transgender people or their approval of countries where homosexuality is punishable by death. And of course there are people who are happy to get on Twitter today and celebrate the death of gays. I don't want to say that their voices are more important.

No, what I mean is that we were already dying. We were already a target. But this time it made the news.