Sunday night, while putting my kid to sleep, I sang her the song I have sung to her at night since she was a baby – Mercedes Benz by Janis Joplin. It was all good, until I got to the 3rd verse:
Oh lord, won’t you buy me a night on the town?
And then I broke down. I couldn’t even get through the whole line.
Others have written amazing pieces about islamophobia, about gun control, about attacks on people of colour, about the fraught relationship between queer POC and the police. These are important conversations, and I will do my best to amplify these important voices in the wake of all of this.
Like others, when I heard the news on Sunday, it felt intensely personal.
I don’t live in fear. I am 35 years old, so I came out for the first time nearly 20 years ago (wait, what?). I’m white, cis, femme, and I’m privileged enough to live in a city that currently has the trans and pride flags up at city hall. I’m privileged enough that I can say things like, “If someone doesn’t want to give me a job because I’m married to a woman, then I don’t want to work there anyway”. I have wonderfully supportive friends and family, both queer and straight, and 99.9% of the time, I’m brave enough to hold my wife’s hand and eff anyone who has a problem with it. These days, I feel totally comfortable almost everywhere I go. It hasn’t always been this way for me; if I think about it too long, I can remember feeling ashamed and scared more often than not. It’s an awful feeling. Shame and fear taste sour, smell like bile, and feel like sandpaper on my heart.
Gay bars, and other queer spaces, are vital. They are vital especially for those who don’t have support. But even for me, although I feel safe most of the time, queer spaces feel especially safe. They feel like home. When travelling, I’ve sought out queer spaces, and I have danced the night away in gay bars in Beirut, Mexico City, Toronto, and even small town Ontario. Not to pick up, but just to be there, to be in a queer space. To feel free. To feel safe.
Why does Pride matter? Why do queer spaces matter? I’ve been asked that question by well-meaning, generally supportive allies. You have equal rights now, don’t you?
Pride matters because it’s a hell of a lot better than being ashamed. Queer spaces matter because rights on paper aren’t the end of it.
Maybe it’s problematic for me to think of the victims as my people, but I do. I recognize that I am not Orlando – I am not a person of colour, I haven’t been to Florida since I was a kid, and I’m not a regular at big dancey nightclubs.
That said, I am hurting. My people are hurting. We will be okay, because we are resilient, because we have decades of fighting back in our histories, because our existence is an act of resistance, because we have to be.
My facebook and twitter feeds have been full of messages of grief and anger, of healing and resistance, from queers and allies alike. I am also aware of those who have been silent. And as I tuck my kid into bed, I think about the victims and the people who loved them, about the fragility of life, about being strong, about feeling safe.