The community as home

I was out of the country last week and sat with my partner in a coffeeshop on Sunday night. It was one of our brief periods with wifi, and we found and read article after article, Facebook statuses and twitter feeds, dazed by the disorientation that comes from realizing that in such a brief time, we had missed so much. So much time had passed that our communities had endured this great sadness while it was still unbeknownst to us. 

I’m experiencing waves of sadness and anger, exhaustion and grief about the massacre of queer, black and Latinx people in Orlando. I saw a picture that one of my sister’s friends had re-posted of her at Boston Pride from last year and fell apart. I thought of a dear young relative who is only just coming out. I thought of the way that fear moves in this country and reverberates throughout the world. I thought of queer spaces that have brought me life, and our elders who fought tirelessly for these spaces. I thought of the queer and Latinx erasure, the Islamophobia that would be wrapped into it all, and the way that ableist language—crazy, insane, deranged, ill—would saturate even “well-intentioned” statements, and how I would cringe every single time, regardless of intention.

The thing that continues to move me to unapologetic anger, however, is the advice that I have been passively receiving about the importance of “staying safe.” I heard it from well-intentioned people in my life, and saw it on Facebook statuses of people I barely know anymore. I felt it, unspoken, in conversations that just felt too short, and in things being implied, yet left unsaid. I saw people urging others not to attend Pride activities, to “stay safe.” To gather in small groups, not to “create targets.” Safety is an illusion, but one thing I know is that asking people to “stay safe” by staying out of groups, not seeking community in deeply sad times, is not safe. It’s instilling public fear. 

Queer community is where I’ve found home. Home has never been a place for me, but a vibration, a person or group of people, a feeling. What’s more, I’ve found home in this body, which may or may not be a “target.” I have found home among other disabled people and queer people with beautiful, “dangerous,” “target” bodies all around the world, and I will never be sorry. 

I don't know what “safety” means, but I know that for many marginalized people—trans people, people of color, disabled people—safety does not exist. I also know that so many people still endure each day without it. I’m not sorry that I’m disgusted when people tell me to “stay safe” as if it's real, and because I know they actually mean to stay quiet, stay invisible, be afraid, to deny my privilege.

I’m not sorry that I’ve created a life where community might mean less “safety,” where home is in this body that I make more “dangerous” each time I come out as queer or disabled, through my words or behavior, and stand with other, or more marginalized bodies. I am not sorry that I refuse to give in to an illusion of “safety” to pacify people with perhaps well-meaning, yet entirely misguided and offensive opinions. There was a time when I was less proud. It did not feel more safe.

I'm not sorry for noticing when bars, marches, and protests are inaccessible to certain people, and for talking about who may be missing from these events because ableism, racism, transphobia, and Islamophobia are still alive in marginalized spaces. I’m not sorry for talking about the way that the media and the government manufacture fear and the way our society eats it up and uses religion, guns, mental health, and the “all of us” rhetoric to keep distance from the ways that we are complicit in all of this.

I dearly hope you seek community where you are moved to find it. I hope you gather, and discover new ways to be proud and unapologetic, and embody this in the way that it works for you. I hope that healing and comfort come into you in the ways that you need it to. I want to hold space for you. I want us to hold each other.

Fiercely, and with love,
Alison