I Still Don’t Know What to Feel, Orlando

cropped-screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-8-16-39-pmWhen 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.

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The flowers in front of the inn (photo by Danny)

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.

  1. Stanley Almodovar III
  2. Amanda Alvear
  3. Oscar A. Aracena-Montero
  4. Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala
  5. Antonio Davon Brown
  6. Darryl Roman Burt II
  7. Angel L. Candelario-Padro
  8. Juan Chevez-Martinez
  9. Luis Daniel Conde
  10. Cory James Connell
  11. Tevin Eugene Crosby
  12. Deonka Deidra Drayton
  13. Simon Adrian Carillo Fernandez
  14. Leroy Valentin Fernandez
  15. Mercedez Marisol Flores
  16. Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz
  17. Juan Ramon Guerrero
  18. Paul Terrell Henry
  19. Frank Hernandez
  20. Miguel Angel Honorato
  21. Javier Jorge-Reyes
  22. Jason Benjamin Josaphat
  23. Eddie Jamoldroy Justice
  24. Anthony Luis Laureanodisla
  25. Christopher Andrew Leinonen
  26. Alejandro Barrios Martinez
  27. Brenda Lee Marquez McCool
  28. Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez
  29. Kimberly Morris
  30. Akyra Monet Murray
  31. Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo
  32. Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez
  33. Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera
  34. Joel Rayon Paniagua
  35. Jean Carlos Mendez Perez
  36. Enrique L. Rios Jr.
  37. Jean C. Nives Rodriguez
  38. Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado
  39. Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz
  40. Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan
  41. Edward Sotomayor Jr.
  42. Shane Evan Tomlinson
  43. Martin Benitez Torres
  44. Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega
  45. Juan P. Rivera Velazquez
  46. Luis S. Vielma
  47. Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez
  48. Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon
  49. 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.

-Morgan

*Avatar by Charlavail

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7 thoughts on “I Still Don’t Know What to Feel, Orlando

  1. Your post isn’t disjointed at all. Your post (as all of your posts are,) is pure, raw, and emotion-filled with a definitive attempt to find logic and direction in the aftermath of such a senseless act.

    Things like this keep happening and each time it happens, we know what is going to be said and by whom…. every time. It’s becoming old hat. (e.g.: https://youtu.be/-1VZGUJ8GtY )

    When will we stop talking about it and do something about it?

    But what, exactly, can be done? How is it possible to teach love to the loveless? To teach tolerance and acceptance to the intolerable and closed-minded?

    To live in love.
    To be the love you wish to see in the world.

    With the hope that your love will inspire others… and it will spread. Not the other way around.

    “Some Things I’ll Never Know….
    … And I’ve Had To Let Them Go….”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel what you’re saying here. So much. ❤ Especially the whole "it could have been me," except that I'm white and I never go clubbing. But I almost did go to LA Pride, since I was down in the city that day, and they caught the man with guns and explosives in Santa Monica. And I remember feeling so relieved for not going. And so ashamed of being relieved.

    It's hard carrying their names. And it's hard feeling so unsafe for being what you are. But I think the officers outside the Stonewall were a good sign, if small and mostly symbolic.

    Sending you good thoughts. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you ❤ And oh my GOD the guy in Santa Monica. I was in New York at the time but my fiancé saw the news about that when it happened and I got so scared for all my queer friends in L.A. (I knew multiple people who attended). I'm glad they caught the guy.

      Like

  3. Hi Morgan, I have seen you in a couple of shows but, your writing is what I respect & admire the most about you is your writing. Your books. Your blogs. They’re so incredibly dexterous & deft. This post moved me to tears of many feelings. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and talents with us.

    Xo
    Ericka

    Liked by 1 person

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