In the early hours of Sunday, June 12, word began to spread of the latest mass shooting: a lone gunman had entered a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida and killed 50 people, with another 53 injured. Over the next few days, as the national conversation moved on to the implications of this attack for terrorism, gun control, and the American election, queer communities around the world remained shaken by this horrifying act of hate.
Electric City Magazine reached out to a number of local queer writers and activists to hear their perspective on the issue. Yesterday, we posted Cathy Petch’s poem, 50 Radical Acts of Love. Today, Angela Semple provides a set of guidelines for supporting, coping, and healing.
When I first heard the news about the fifty queer people of colour murdered at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, I was rendered breathless. As I do too often when I hear this kind of news, I began searching social media for comfort, scanning my twitter and facebook feeds for moments of light, hope, and love to latch on to in the aftermath of fear and trauma I was overwhelmed with.
Many of my queer friends shared their responses of shock and grief, along with stories of how this hatred—the same hatred that entered that club, killing and injuring a hundred people—had been commonplace in our own lives. At first I had no words, but I was grateful for their voices—a queer Indigenous professor of mine sharing eloquent heart-filled posts throughout the day, a new queer performer friend of mine sharing the poem republished in this column.
But there were other posts, too. Posts that sought to erase our experiences, as queer people of colour, as two-spirit people, as trans people. Posts that sought to erase the love in our communities by spewing racist and religious hatred. Posts that silenced me even further. As the day went on, I felt myself wanting to comment, wanting to make space for myself and tell others to stop and listen, but it all felt too much. Too exhausting. Too overwhelming.
Some days the intersectionality of my identity leads me into such challenging terrain that I simply have to curl up in bed and rest my weary spirit. So I did that until a door opened and I was asked if I wanted to share. I realized that I did, and I found these words; a list-poem for those whose hearts beat in synch with my own.
how to support me today
do not bring up wounded knee, for that is my trauma, too. do not reach into my gunshot wound unless it is to stop the bleeding and hold the pieces of me together.
do not perpetuate the hatred spat from the killer’s gun with your responses. there is no space here for your racism. there is no space here for your politics. there is no space here for your words unless they can reach into this gunshot wound to stop the bleeding and hold the pieces of me together.
if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, two-spirit, trans, latinx, or anyone else who knows this violence the way we do, please take care of yourself. if you have words to share, spread them around this world and into our wounds. if you cannot speak, let your silence resonate into us. let us hold each other together our blood mixing in rainbows of love and solidarity in candlelight unburdened by fda bans on our freedom to relate to one another. let us reach into these gunshot wounds to stop the bleeding and hold the pieces of each other together.
if you are white or straight or anyone to which this violence is unfamiliar, stop.
take a breath.
breathe our words into yourself.
if you must share, then share our stories. repeat our names. listen to our heartbeats and make space for us to mourn, grieve, and be with one another.
do not speak.
do not speak.
do not speak.
do not speak unless you are absolutely certain that your words can reach into our gunshot wounds and stop the bleeding. Do not act unless you know that your action will hold the pieces of us together.
this one’s for the grandmothers. grandfathers. aunties and uncles. for all our older relations who remain neither man nor woman but some fierce being in between. this one’s for the stonewallers. for the bulldykes. for the drag queens and the elders. for all the ones who came before us. for those whose words and lives made this world feel safer, if only for a second. for those rainbow warriors (no, not you), who raised their fists and flags and lit our way out of closets and into communities. we remember.
remember to hope. remember to dance. remember to open our bodies to the possibilities of another being, the same being, only different. wet, hard, hot, heavy, soft, juicy, thick, layered, beautiful in it’s newness, incredible in it’s familiarity, raw, powerful, and awesomely sexy. remember that we can reach in. we can stop the bleeding. we will hold the pieces of you together. #morelove. always.