Hello dear ones,
I have been shattered this week over the news of the massacre at Latin night at a gay bar in Orlando. I have felt immense sadness over the loss of more queer people and more people of color to violence spurred by hatred and fear. I have felt rage over the use of this event as a justification for Islamophobia, policing and prisons. I have felt grief over the murder of Black transwoman Devin Diamond in New Orleans East.
It matters that Muslim Americans will be subject to more profiling and prejudice because of this event. It matters that the people who died last Sunday were mostly Latinx, largely Puerto Rican. It matters that queer people of color are subject to systematic destruction, and it matters that the history of this destruction is so easily erased and minimized.
I have cried. I have raged. But I have also felt the immense support of community. I have felt capacity to offer support in the ways I know how. I have had many tender moments with friends and loved ones that have filled me with love and hope and belief that “another world is not only possible, she is on her way.” As I sat on Cabrini Bridge yesterday, I remembered the second half of Arundhati Roy’s quote: On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
I came out as queer in 2003. I was 19 years old. My mother was not surprised, but she was not supportive. “You know what the Bible says about this, so you know what I think about it,” was her statement. I have always dated both men and women (and people who identify as neither.) Because of this I have had to come out again and again, reminding my mother and others that no, it wasn’t a phase, and that yes, I am still queer.
When I changed my name in 2012 (nearly ten years after coming out as queer) to better reflect my gender identity (critter, for the record), I talked with my mom about my gender, and how I have never been “a regular woman.” I wanted her to understand me, but I also understood her. I didn’t insist that she call me by my new name, and so for years, she hasn’t.
Every Sunday evening I call my mom. She is a deeply religious woman, so when we spoke this Sunday, I didn’t know how she would respond, if she would understand the relevance of what happened in Orlando for me and my community. So many other Christians have reacted with indifference or hate. When I brought up how sad I was feeling, she affirmed how terrible the attack was. Then she said, “God’s call to us is simple: to love one another. God never said, ‘Love your neighbor if...’ He just said, ‘Love your neighbor.’”
On Tuesday my mom left me a voicemail in which she spoke the sweetest words. “Hi Bear. It’s your Mom.” I could hear the hint of hesitancy in her voice as she said my “new” name, my chosen name. My mom called me by my name. I felt seen and understood. I cried.
I’m not trying to make parallels where they don’t exist, and I don’t know if what happened in Orlando is what instigated this shift for my mom. But I would like to believe that some small good can come from such unspeakable atrocity. I hope that this horrific event is encouraging difficult conversations. I hope that there are parents who are understanding their kids a little better, and people who are taking seriously the risks inherent in being out and proud even now.
I believe that the world will come around to our perspective eventually, or it will destroy itself trying. I believe this because we are on the moral high ground. There is no ethical justification for discrimination, for violence, for hate, against queer people, people of color, Muslims, or any of the other groups that have historically been and continue to be targeted.
The stakes are so high that it can be challenging to cultivate patience, but I hope that we are in it for the long haul. I hope that we are finding the courage to stand against this tangled web of intersecting oppressions and say, “No, not in my name.” I hope that we are meeting ourselves and each other with love within these difficult conversations at this bleak time. I have seen the way that continuing to meet each other with compassion can evolve our understanding, one small step at a time. We can be transformed.
Take good care of yourselves and each other, this week and always.
I see you and I love you.