Sunday morning I woke up a little before everyone else. While I waited for the kettle to boil, I checked Facebook (like I’m trying not to do) and one of the very first items in my news feed was an article about the Orlando massacre. I read it quickly. I fought back tears. I flipped the cover closed on my tablet and I busied myself with the day. We unpacked boxes of books and toys, I placed pictures and candles and nic-nacs about the house. In the afternoon we planted out some flowers and tomatoes and peppers we’d bought at the market. I kept my mind away from the hurt.
But by late afternoon, I couldn’t stay away any longer. I read that the death toll was now more like 50. I read the first snippets of information about the shooter. I felt numb, until I started texting with a close friend who is a lesbian. She told me how hard of a time she was having. She said “they’re shooting us.” And at that, I remembered that I am in that “us”. I identify as queer, though I’m read as straight. I hate how that part of myself is so easily erased, every day. How I forget it, too. It’s something I struggle with. You don’t have to be queer to feel the pain of this tragedy, of course, but her words brought me back to myself and I finally started to feel it.
I feel it as a queer woman. I feel it as a mother. I feel it as a human being. Like so many, I wonder how many more people have to die for something to change. I am appalled that this man was able to legally acquire the guns he used, even though he was on a government watch list. What is the purpose of these lists, then? Why do so many people insist they have a right to possess these weapons of mass destruction? I’m sure there are those saying that if only someone else in the club had been carrying a gun, the death toll would be much lower. I’m sure that’s complete and utter bullshit. It’s a part of the lies that gun-enthusiasts tell themselves to make it okay for people to keep dying. It’s shifting the blame, it’s burying your head so fucking far in the sand that you can’t hear the rest of us crying for it to stop.
If this man hadn’t been able to purchase a gun, he’d just be a lonely homophobe, quietly hating gays and all of those people who were just celebrating love and community and BEING, would not now be dead.
Though perhaps even bigger than the gun issue is the issue of the hate. If that man hadn’t been so triggered by the sight of two men kissing, this wouldn’t have happened. If we are all surrounded by love and acceptance, if we are taught these things right from the beginning, if we’re taught to live and let live, then there’d be no need for the guns. There would be no fear of this happening. I hope to raise my kids to know this, deep in their core. To know only love, to feel only love for others. I hope they never have to face the agony of “coming out,” because they’ll know that they can love whomever they choose. And that they never have to face such hatred for that.
I know I’m not adding anything new to the conversation. But I hope that the more people who make their voices heard, the closer we’ll come to some kind of reform. There has to be a tipping point. How is this not it? How was the last one not it? And the one before that?
For a several days now I’ve had the beginnings of a poem in the Notes section of my phone. It’s a bit dark, and I knew that generally, it was about parenting and children and sending them out into the world, I didn’t know where it was going, really, or what was coming next, which is a bit unusual for me. But I trusted it would come. And last night, this morning, it did. I’m saddened it was this event that gave me the words to finish the poem. I’m grateful I have poetry to help me work it out.
Me, just before the Dawson City Pride Parade, 2007.