Grief is a funny thing. I pulled my car over this morning, eyes blurry with tears for 49 people I do not know and for a community to which I belong but whose many depths and corners I can never hope to touch. What is it in us that allows us to grieve the unknown?
There is already so much wrong with what is being said about the attack in Orlando. Better writers and thinkers than myself have addressed these issues more thoroughly, but briefly:
1)our grief is no excuse for racism; 2)conservatives: how dare you attempt to co-opt our queer grief for your own insidious ends (xenophobia, violence, political gain); 3)how many more times will we hear the phrase “worst mass shooting in U.S. history” before we make concrete changes to gun control legislation which will end this sick competition?; 4) what happened in Orlando was a hate crime, designed to sow fear and oppression. Anti-queer, anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ fear and hatred is alive and well in this country.
My grief unfolds in stages- slowly in trickles of quiet moments throughout the workday, then all at once at home, standing at the kitchen counter doubled-over with the weight of this nebulous sadness. How can I quantify or explain how it feels to know that the site of some of the deepest joys of my adult life- a dance floor filled with queers- will be marked with fear and claustrophobia from here on out? I think back to the freedom I have felt in these spaces over the years: the space for becoming, the inhabiting of my body. The ease of anonymous community. All things I struggle with in my real life (knowing myself, being present in my body, feeling easily connected to others). There have been shitty, drunken, messy nights at queer parties, absolutely- but even the worst of these nights unfolded in an environment of safety and belonging.
There is a scene in season two of Transparent (a show not without its flaws), when Ali, the youngest of the Pfefferman clan, walks into a queer party for the first time after acknowledging her own queerness. Bodies press together, joyful laughing faces swim up out of the crowd into sharp focus, and we are in Ali’s head as her eyes alight on the curve of an arm, the thrilling line of lips about to whisper into an upturned ear. The crowd is gorgeous in its anonymity and its specificity- each detail is glorious and the whole feels like a dream. Ali is flooded with joy, excitement, belonging. She is intrigued. She’s at home. It’ the truest representation of my experience of queer spaces that I’ve ever seen captured on film. Those Friday night homecomings will continue to be my church, but they will now be marked with fear.
The Not Sorry Project is enough a part of my life these days that I filter new experiences through its lens. In thinking and reading about Orlando over the last few days, I have circled back to one quote again and again. From Jeremy Kaatz, via Twitter: ‘If you can’t wrap your head around a bar or club as a sanctuary, you’ve probably never been afraid to hold someone’s hand in public.’ Those few characters beautifully sum up my sadness around this event, which has deepened in the ensuing silence and/or ignorance shown by much of the rest of the world in response. It also succinctly encapsulates the message of the Project: if you can’t wrap your head around why someone might need to declare what they are not sorry for, you’ve probably never been made to feel that who or how you are is something you need to apologize for.
We will continue to make and claim space for your not sorrys. We will continue to call out racism, homophobia, transphobia, ISLAMOPHOBIA, and hatred of all kinds. We will continue to fuck shit up. We will continue to love loudly and proudly. Thank you for your support, friends. Holding each of you in our hearts.