When I woke up to the Orlando shooting I didn’t feel anything.
I woke up in Brooklyn beside my fiancé in the bed of a friend we were staying with (she’d graciously let us have the bed while she took the air mattress). I saw the headline: 20 people dead, more injured. I don’t remember the exact numbers when the news first broke, but I remember it being close to the number of deaths wrought by the San Bernardino shooting in December. That time, the shooting had been seven miles away from me, and the shooters had fled to a house a mile from where I lived. That time, I locked my doors and windows and skipped work.
This time, I didn’t wanna feel anything. I saw “gay club” in the headline and blurred it out.
My fiancé said, “Did you see the–” and I said, “Yeah.”
I wanted badly to pretend it wasn’t real because I was in my favorite city in the world and I wanted another fun day and I didn’t want 20+ members of my community to be dead.
Shouldn’t I have been crying? Shouldn’t I have spent the day mourning members of my queer family? Shouldn’t I have immediately started engaging with social media and spreading the word about how this was a hate crime, committed during pride month?
We left the apartment for another day in the city. We’d been planning on visiting the Stonewall Inn during our trip, the birthplace of the modern queer movement. On the way over, I suggested we visit it today. I’m not sure how to reconcile the fact that I wanted to pretend the ordeal hadn’t happened and equally wanted that to be the day we visited the Stonewall Inn. You’d think I’d either avoid it entirely or read every Orlando article I could get my hands on. This in-between state felt weird to me.
More details emerged during our pre-Stonewall Inn lunch. 50 dead, and around 50 more injured. It was a Latinx night at the club, so most of the victims were queer people of color. The shooter’s last name was Arabic and “Muslim” was on the tips of bigots’ tongues.
A good portion of my queer friends had hopped online to discuss the homophobia in this country, how this was a hate crime, how this wasn’t an accident. I stared at the posts and argued with them in my head. Maybe it was a coincidence, said a voice in my head. Maybe he’d planned on walking into any old club. Maybe he happened upon a gay club and didn’t realize what it was. Maybe this was a mistake maybe it wasn’t the kind of hateful everyone thinks it is and maybe we’re better than this now because it’s 2016 and please don’t let this have been on purpose.
I knew better. I know how many queer people in this country still face violence and intolerance. I know how the victims are disproportionately trans, people of color, or trans people of color. But I held on to the possibility of a coincidence for as long as I could.
If the shooting had happened at a club in any of the places I have called home (California, New York, Dublin), one or more of the victims could have been a friend of mine. I didn’t let myself think about how many of my queer friends of color like to go clubbing. I did think about queer Muslim friends, queer Arab friends who were about to face persecution from both sides–from the shooter toward their queerness, and from Islamaphobes toward their religion, or assumed religion. I kept thinking about my fiancé’s Arabic last name and how beautiful they look in a dress and I kept stopping there because going further meant dwelling on how both of these things could be turned against them.
I could say “one of the victims could’ve been me,” but it wouldn’t have. I may be queer, but I’m also white. Most of the victims were not and, according to more news that has surfaced about the shooter’s racist tendencies, race factored in. I also don’t go clubbing, anywhere, ever. I’ve never been to a club, queer or otherwise. I said as much to my fiancé and they pointed out, this could’ve happened at any queer event. A pride parade. A volunteer event. A queer remembrance event. I could’ve been at any of those.
The victim’s names started showing up on my news feeds. I quickly scrolled past them. I didn’t wanna read anything about them. I didn’t wanna see their faces. I wanted to stay numb.
As we approached Christopher Street, where Stonewall Inn sits, I saw a police officer. No, two. No, five. My heart sunk into my feet. It was obvious why they were here. Still, I said to myself, Something else happened. Maybe it’s a coincidence.
We reached Stonewall Inn. I’d counted at least a dozen officers by this point, and one of them walked right into the inn. Flowers lay in front of the building, physical evidence of everything I’d spent the day quickly scrolling past on my phone. My fiancé asked an officer what was going on, and he replied, “We just want an extra presence here today.” Someone asked my fiancé what the flowers were for and they hardly knew how to answer.
The day went on. I plugged my ears. I never cried. I still haven’t properly processed this. I still haven’t been able to read anything about the victims.
I feel like I should have something profound to say but I don’t. I just felt like I needed to say something, especially because I don’t know what to say or how to feel. I’ve seen posts online urging allies to ask their LGBT friends how they’re doing, or if they need anything, and all I could think was, please no one ask me how I’m doing. I don’t want to be reminded of this. I want to block this out and I hate that I want that because it feels irresponsible and cold. I wanted to write this because no two people in this community will react in the same way. I wanted to write this for other queer people who can’t go beyond this feeling of numb shock and feel like it’s the wrong way to feel. I still feel like it’s the wrong way to feel, but it’s probably not.
This was a hate crime, as desperately as I didn’t want it to be. 50 people have died and now I’m going to read their names for the first time because it feels selfish to shield myself from their names. I’m going to write them down here. And I hope so hard that these are all the right names and that no one’s chosen name was erased in this list.
- Stanley Almodovar III
- Amanda Alvear
- Oscar A. Aracena-Montero
- Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala
- Antonio Davon Brown
- Darryl Roman Burt II
- Angel L. Candelario-Padro
- Juan Chevez-Martinez
- Luis Daniel Conde
- Cory James Connell
- Tevin Eugene Crosby
- Deonka Deidra Drayton
- Simon Adrian Carillo Fernandez
- Leroy Valentin Fernandez
- Mercedez Marisol Flores
- Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz
- Juan Ramon Guerrero
- Paul Terrell Henry
- Frank Hernandez
- Miguel Angel Honorato
- Javier Jorge-Reyes
- Jason Benjamin Josaphat
- Eddie Jamoldroy Justice
- Anthony Luis Laureanodisla
- Christopher Andrew Leinonen
- Alejandro Barrios Martinez
- Brenda Lee Marquez McCool
- Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez
- Kimberly Morris
- Akyra Monet Murray
- Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo
- Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez
- Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera
- Joel Rayon Paniagua
- Jean Carlos Mendez Perez
- Enrique L. Rios Jr.
- Jean C. Nives Rodriguez
- Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado
- Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz
- Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan
- Edward Sotomayor Jr.
- Shane Evan Tomlinson
- Martin Benitez Torres
- Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega
- Juan P. Rivera Velazquez
- Luis S. Vielma
- Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez
- Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon
- Jerald Arthur Wright
50 (or 49) seems like so much more after writing out all the names. There are so many of them. I can’t believe how many there are. I can’t believe how many families that means were hit by this.
I’m planning on adding pride buttons to the side of my blog because visibility is important and it’s important not to feel alone.
I’m sorry this post is so disjointed.
*Avatar by Charlavail