It has been nearly two weeks since the attack on Pulse nightclub in Orlando and I have had a very difficult time putting into words exactly how this horrible atrocity has me feeling. Beyond the seething rage that defies description, there is something else.
I don’t feel safe. As Americans, we all feel this to some degree after the latest mass shooting in our country (how disgusting that I can say the words “latest mass shooting” to begin with). But let me be clear about one thing: I have not felt safe since having the realization at an early age that I was different and that my being different could mean violence against me was possible at any moment.
Before I go on, I would say to my young self in this moment to look to hope and love. I was told something I needed to hear this week and it would have helped me years ago. Darkness owns the sky but we always look to the stars. I would tell him not to be ruled by fear and that the very act of existing in his own skin and being who he is, is an act of quiet revolution. His existence can change the world for another like him in the future and make their path a little easier. It is okay to be afraid, as I am now, this will pass. I absolutely refuse to be ruled by fear.
Waking up that morning and being reminded that there are people in the world who would like to see me meet a similar end was terrifying. The LGBTQ community is incredibly vulnerable here in the United States and even more so abroad. Disproportionately at risk are people of color and those who identify as transgender. These members of our LGBTQ family often bear the brunt of this violence.
I heard many people over the past week say things like, “this was a club that welcomed everyone,” or “this didn’t directly affect you.” This is erasure. The truth is, this was a gay club. It directly impacts every single LGBTQ person on this planet. Any time an act of violence is committed against us, because of who we are and who we love, it directly effects our sense of safety.
Gay men and those suspected of being gay in Syria, are being hurled from multi-story buildings by ISIS extremists. Here in the U.S. trans students are now at risk of attack from their fellow classmates, (with the administration’s permission) for using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. In Uganda anti-gay laws have incited an increase in violence against us. In Jamaica, LGBTQ people face mob attacks, stabbings, death threats and, in some cases, murder. Throughout the world lesbians are subjected to corrective rape. In Russia LGBTQ pride parades are met with violence and anti-gay groups who place false dating profiles in an effort to kidnap and torture those who respond. All of this is recorded and uploaded to the Internet as a warning to the LGBTQ people of the world. These are just a few examples of the violence that our community faces every day.
We must press on and, whatever we do, we must not allow this most recent attack to drive a wedge between us, and our similarly marginalized brothers and sisters in the Islamic community. I entreat my LGBTQ family, and anyone reading this post, to not respond to hate with hate and to not judge an entire group of people based on the actions of a few. We are better than that. We live in a climate of fear. We are tired. We are angry. Despite all of this - we must remain strong.
The LGBTQ members of your community are suffering and they need you now more than ever. When you hear a slur, a joke, a derogatory comment, or anti-gay rhetoric, know that it directly contributes to a culture that has allowed this violence against us. To do nothing is to be complicit.
We all have a direct responsibility as human beings to help end hate. It is up to all of us to stand up and speak up. I refuse to sit quietly any longer. I hope you’ll join me.
Jesse Kramer, Art Director
Images: NYDaily News, WSBV-Atlanta