Heartache and Heaviness

It’s been a rough week.

By now, you’ve likely heard about the mass shooting that happened over the weekend at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando.

It’s entirely possible that, by now, you’ve moved on. This is America, where we value the right to gun ownership over the lives of human beings, particularly if those human beings are queer and/or not white. Shit happens, we move on and try not to think too hard about it.

I’m angry and sad and scared all at once on so many different levels. And let’s be clear: as a white person who is, most of the time, read correctly by others as a man, I have some of the least reason to be any of those things. I’m safe, relatively speaking. But that didn’t stop me from a moment or two of hesitation before holding my partner’s hand as we walked to the grocery store the day after the shooting. Because it could still have happened to us.

I don’t have a lot of coherent thoughts about it all. There’s so much at play here: racism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, gun control vs. gun owners’ rights, and on and on and on. There aren’t a lot of easy answers, and the few that should be easy are made hard by politics and skewed perceptions of reality. About all I know with certainty is that this has been a really hard week.

On Monday I stumbled across a Facebook event for a healing ritual at a nearby beach. That evening, my partner and I went to the event, where we stood in community with others who were hurting, and did our best to soothe each other’s wounds and send as much healing and protective energy as we could to the LGBTQIA+ community at large. And it helped. We left feeling lighter than we had when we arrived.

The trouble is, there’s still a lot of vitriol going in multiple directions on social media over all of this, and some of it I agree with and some of it hurts like hell, and the obvious solution would be to back off social media for a while, but it’s a hard thing to do when you also feel compelled to check up on your friends and community elsewhere. And so while I feel less hopeless about the world than I did before the ritual on Monday, there’s still a weight on my chest.

What I want for my community, more than anything else, is safe spaces in which we can be fully ourselves, spaces so large that we are able to move through the whole world while holding our heads high. I want transgender/nonbinary/gender-adjacent folks to feel safe and seen as themselves, not limited by the arbitrary assignment of the labels they received at birth. I want queer folks to be able to be affectionate with one another in public the same way straight folks are, and for it to be a complete non-event. I want us all to feel like we can take ownership of our identities and how we express them, and to do so without wondering if this is what’s finally going to push the world around us to far, if it’s too much of a risk.

To my straight, cisgender friends and family who checked in on me this week, thank you. It really was appreciated.

To my queer friends and family, I’m sorry I haven’t done the greatest job of checking in with you.

Everyone, let’s do our best to keep each other safe, because the world won’t do it for us.

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