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In Wake of Orlando, Let's Come Together

In Wake of Orlando, Let's Come Together

In Wake of Orlando, Let's Come Together

June 12, 2016, will be a day that no American, especially no LGBT person,  will ever forget. Here's how this queer man hopes we come together through it. 

Basil_Soper

As I write this, I am in the passenger seat and my partner is driving.  We are on the Jersey turnpike. She and my dog and I are in the midst of a trans-centric photo project called Transilient. We are driving across the country together this summer and interviewing trans people about themselves outside of their gender identity. My eyes are swollen. I am nauseated, partially due to the gluten free Philly Cheesesteak I had for breakfast, but mostly because of  the immense sadness, fear, and hurt that I am experiencing this very moment. 

It’s very weird to be on the road and crying about the news that happened to revolve around the terrorist attack in Florida. I want to be with these same two loves of mine, but in our New Orleans home crying into a pillow and under an air conditioner. Instead, I’m typing as the radio gives us updates, descriptions, and interviews with those were involved with others at Pulse. The media keeps saying “ ISIS inspired, Islamic terrorist leaning...” Mainstream media keeps focusing on the idea that the shooter, Omar Mateen, was a part of an Islamic terrorist group. They keep skimming over the fact that regardless of why he acted out as a terrorist or who he did it with, this was a terrorist attack against LGBT people. What is important here is that 49 LGBT people are dead. 

The group affected last night was primarily latino and latina based. I’m assuming many of them are and were cisgender. I am white and transgender.  However, even with these differences I feel as though I can relate to the folks who were there. I have been in the exact same setting as the venue that was infiltrated and attacked on Sunday. I’m southern. I love gay clubs. I love to dance. I love feeling safe in spaces that are supportive of who I am.

 When I sit still for too long, I can see and feel the scene that went down.  I, too, know the joys and elation that the group of three hundred must surely have felt in Pulse before the shooter arrived. The freedom and excitement that comes from knowing pride and believing that you are safe in a world that is not affectionate and encouraging of LGBT people is fleeting, but not usually fatal.

I just left the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. It is a massive gathering of transgender, ally, lesbian, gay, queer, and bi folks.  I have been to the conference two other years in the past. This time it was a very different event. In the past, it was an appropriately organized gathering. Nothing is perfect. This year most of the workshops I tried to go to were cancelled, which was a bummer. When I did get to see two workshops they were both taken off course with other conversations by the audience. I watched community members verbally confront presenters publicly. So many people around me were just walking around feeling triggered.  I heard rumors of people feeling discredited and dismissed. There were protests at the Plenary Speaker panel because people felt like the infrastructure of the conference was racist. I felt uncomfortable to see the trans erotica and items like packers, gaffs, and binders hidden in the back of the conference away from the rest of the tables.  The event’s overall vibe felt disjointed, tense, and divided. For most of my time at the conference, I felt shy and withdrawn. Even with the challenges that came within the conference I felt happy to be in a space that was celebratory of transgender people. It feels awesome to see more trans identity, images, and media and that wasn’t cis based for even one weekend. 

Last night, before bed, my girlfriend and I had a discussion about my lack of optimism in life. I had complained throughout the weekend. I had come to her feeling vulnerable and sad about the disconnect amongst LGBT people, not just the trans community. I talked to her about how I feel like we are such a pained community. It’s not our fault. We are a marginalized group that holds other, sometimes more, marginalized people in it. We have been hurt, traumatized, and treated like second class citizens for centuries.  I have been a large proponent for healing and loving one another, but I walked away from the conference feeling shaken. I felt like maybe I will not see general community healing during my lifetime. Maybe we are just too hurt and maybe I will only see divisiveness.  I felt like I couldn't handle anymore crticism fueled by my own and the insecurities of my community members. I felt like maybe I am not good enough for my community and my work will never suffice.

Jo, my partner, was not having it and asked me to try to be more positive about our project. She pleaded with me to feel more confident about change for LGBT people and other oppressed groups in general. As she and I dove into my pain that’s been caused by transphobia, homophobia, and policing within our own community; gun fire was opened in the LGBT community in Florida. When we woke up to the news, I have to say it was hard to keep my promise that I would be more upbeat. People keep saying that the attack feels “sobering." This is surreal. I don’t feel awake in the wake of this tragedy. I feel out of my body. I am in shock. 

 It’s Pride month. We’re used to seeing rainbow flags all throughout the month and what we got today is the American flag flying half-staff over the White House. Even with all of this pain and loss of the last few days, After I cry some more and get out of this car I am going to meditate. I am going to live up to my word and attempt to stay optimistic in my grief. I want be the support and connection that I long to see amongst the LGBT community and ask folks to try to not turn on one another in their grief. Islamophobic words and blame are not going to fix LGBT-phobia. Blaming other LGBT people is not going to bring the victims back. Pride events are occurring in many places, especially Florida, right now. I am asking that we hold one another up. I am going to remember that when people start yelling at one another it is because they are afraid. I am going to do my best to remind my community that we are not alone. I am asking that we use our community spaces this month, and always, as a way to memorialize those who we have lost and as a means of us forgiving one another.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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Basil Soper

Basil Soper is a transgender writer, activist, and Southerner who wears his heart on his sleeve. He's an astrology enthusiast and tears up when he watches unexpected-animal-friend videos on the internet. Basil's life goals are to write a memoir and be the best uncle ever to his niece, Penelope. Learn more about Basil at ncqueer.com.

Basil Soper is a transgender writer, activist, and Southerner who wears his heart on his sleeve. He's an astrology enthusiast and tears up when he watches unexpected-animal-friend videos on the internet. Basil's life goals are to write a memoir and be the best uncle ever to his niece, Penelope. Learn more about Basil at ncqueer.com.