Human pictured: Amari @spikequeenaz
On June 5th at 4pm MST / 7pm ET, I will read in a piece that was originally written in the days following the massacre at Pulse Orlando.
A time that brought more death and devastation and violence than I could possibly process. A time of communities ripped apart, here and abroad. A time of divisiveness and unimaginable pain and the rumblings of revolution.
Perhaps it is always this way — it is just that it takes events like that — events that hit us hard, and close to home and personally — to fully get our attention.
There are some periods in this world where it all seems to erupt, all at once. And the grieving and the hurting and the righteous anger and the protests and the memorials and the demands for reform eclipse all else. As they should. As they must.
Thinking back now, it’s not so unlike our current times, this global pandemic, quarantine, and lockdown, death and grief, economic collapse, righteous anger and rage, systems of injustice and prejudice shattering all around us, protests and riots and destruction, a world crumbling in the aftershocks of a world not ready for what hit it.
Can we ever really be ready for a hit like this?
Then and now, it is hits like this that call us forward into raising fists and voices and resources to make a change.
It feels more important than ever for us all to remember that the first pride was also a riot.
Stonewall wasn’t rainbows and flamboyance. Stonewall was anger and rage and property damage and physicality of a crowd that had taken enough and enough and more than enough.
The ground we stand on today (and every right we’ve fought for and won and continue to fight for every single day) is built on the foundation of an uprising.
Not a protest. Not a parade. A riot.
A violent riot that happened as the result of a violent police raid that happened on the heels of centuries of violent and prejudiced actions.
I can’t speak today without saying that it is our black and of color queer family who suffer the most violence. The most discrimination. The most hate. Because they get to stack centuries of racial prejudice on top of centuries of homophobia.
And right now we are called to encircle them and stand with them and protect them with every last thing we have.
This week I’ve committed my social media feeds to amplifying the voices of black teachers and leaders. This week i want to say Black Queer Lives Matter. Black Trans Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. It’s something. It’s a start, but it’s not enough.
I want to call to all of us to show up, on the ground and offer what we can to our black queer family.
After all, if anyone else should know the grief and rage and fear that can come with being attacked for who we are, it should be us.
Yes, it was a riot that started the revolution that let us come out of the closet, get married, keep our jobs, walk with our lovers holding hands in public, attend a parade that celebrates our love, fly a rainbow flag and stand proudly inside of our true identity.
Hold that truth high this month.
I beg you to find the black queer leaders in your community and amplify their voices. Donate to their organizations. Find out how you can support and uplift them right now and always.
Although it’s debated, many say that it was a black transgender woman and self-proclaimed drag queen, Martha P Johnson who threw the first brick. That may or may not be true, but as we celebrate our place on the rainbow flag this month, remember that we are all standing on a ground that Martha and so many other brave black queer humans built for us.
It is true, then, and now, in times of unrest it is marginalized communities that are hit the hardest.
Then, and now, it is that very marginalization, the truth of our queerness that both threatens us in ways those in the mainstream will never know, while also giving us the preparation and tools we need to survive.
During the months after Pulse Orlando, much like these last few months. I could not look away. Not from the news stories. Not from my social media feed. Not from the political response. Not from the attempted erasure of the ethnicity of the victims. Not from the names and faces and stories of those lost and those who survived and those who were there to do the saving.
And not from the eyes of my fellow queers. My LGBTQ community. My family.
Two weeks after the Pulse massacre I was in San Francisco for Pride. That morning, I wandered The Castro on my own. I stopped by the Orlando Memorial. The candles, still burning, wax spilled all over the sidewalk. The pictures and the names and the flowers and the scrawled messages of love and support. I had my own moment of silence there, with the giant pink triangle on the hill above, feeling the echoes of Harvey Milk’s footsteps and the history — my history — heavy in the air.
That afternoon, in Delores Park, I melted into the crowd — this mass of jubilant queer bodies — claiming their celebration and their space and their pride. And later, in the company of two women I had only just met, sunburned and glittered, hands and lips sticky from the sickeningly sweet Smirnoff Ice grabbed from the slim options at a convenience store and carried in a ripped paper bag, I joined the Dyke March. And with thousands and thousands of others, we spilled into the streets.
And yes, there must have been hate somewhere in that huge city. There must have been. But there was no room for it that day. And there were people on the sidewalks and leaning out the windows and yelling from the rooftops. There were signs and chants and hugs from strangers. And there were bodies. Queer bodies. Transgender bodies. Bodies of allies and families and friends. All of us pressed together and moving as one.
When the march ended, back in The Castro — and the whole place was body to body-to-body of queer life, I looked again toward the memorial, now made invisible by the crush of humanity.
And I thought — this is how we survive.
This is how we know that it will be okay.
This is how we go on.
Then. Now. Always.
Thank god that you are you. Because if not, I could never have found the courage to be me.
In solidarity and in love,
As a token of gratitude for using her words to share this critical message, Jeanette has requested we make a donation to a black nonprofit in her name in solidarity and we did just that.