We didn’t take no shot from nobody. We had nothing to lose. You all had rights. We had nothing to lose. I’ll be the first one to step on any organization, on any politician’s toes if I have to, to get the rights for my community. -Sylvia Rivera
The last time I celebrated Pride was back in 2010. Since then, I’ve associated Pride with Backstreet Boys (who performed at Civic Center that day) and rainbow tutus (wearing one isn’t really gay solidarity, if you ask me).
I’ve also come to detest the co-opting of Pride celebration — where companies could instantly attach a rainbow flag to whatever they deem appropriate while failing to address institutional discrimination, class and gender oppression within its structures.
But waking up last Sunday with news of the mass shooting at an Orlando gay club made me rethink of Pride celebrations in a different way, with a heavy heart. Clubs were safe havens when I was in my early 20s, where I knew I could be myself in the dark, against bodies pulsating to the rhythm of music, dancing to the beat of my own queer heart.
The politics of dancing is the politics of feeling good; the politics of dancing is also the politics of willing yourself to feel good. Pop is replete with miniature psychodramas in which memory and desire, subject and object, play out on the dance floor. (Only When I’m Dancing Can I Feel This Free)
The last thing anyone would think of happening after going to a gay club was to be killed. The deaths of 49 gay Latinx and Black folks and the wounding of many others pierces through the soul, a testament to the vulnerability of gay people wherever they are.
While the shooter’s intentions are sliced and diced by the media, while the public is bombarded with Islamophobic messages, it is worth noting that LGBTQ lives suffer under continuous oppressive conditions in immigration, job discrimination, state violence and police brutality, homophobia and transphobia. Rampant racism and xenophobia occur everyday.
Contrary to what the media and mainstream LGBT organizations and publications are depicting: the victims and survivors are Black, Latinx, AfroLatinx, Trans, Gender Non Conforming, undocumented, and working class.
These identities matter.
They matter because of the US occupation and militarization of Puerto Rico and Latin/South America due to US sanctioned economic violence. They matter because our communities have to make separate Latinx nights at clubs due to racism even within the LGBT community. They matter because Black and Latinx club sanctuaries and safe spaces (like Starlight in Brooklyn, Club Escuelita in Manhattan) are routinely shut down due to rampant gentrification and increased policing of our neighborhoods. (Do Not Militarize Our Mourning, Audre Lorde Project)
The lives lost last Sunday brings into focus who we’re fighting for — and the things we must do to prevent the kinds of violence we do not deserve. Audre Lorde once said that we were not meant to survive. We must do everything we can to find the will to fight for our communities, for our friends, for our (chosen) families, for ourselves.
We call on our communities and allies to join us in these conversations and build solidarity together to ensure not one more of us have to live in fear – for the victims and survivors of the Orlando Shooting and the countless others who remain nameless and unaccounted for. (GABRIELA USA Mourns the Massacre in Orlando and Pledges Solidarity for Victims of LGBTQGNC Hate Violence)
All The Dead Boys Look Like Me
Last time, I saw myself die is when police killed Jessie Hernandez
A 17 year old brown queer, who was sleeping in their car
Yesterday, I saw myself die again. Fifty times I died in Orlando. And
I remember reading, Dr. José Esteban Muñoz before he passed
I was studying at NYU, where he was teaching, where he wrote shit
That made me feel like a queer brown survival was possible. But he didn’t
Survive and now, on the dancefloor, in the restroom, on the news, in my chest
There are another fifty bodies, that look like mine, and are
Dead. And I have been marching for Black Lives and talking about the police brutality
Against Native communities too, for years now, but this morning
I feel it, I really feel it again. How can we imagine ourselves // We being black native
Today, Brown people // How can we imagine ourselves
When All the Dead Boys Look Like Us? Once, I asked my nephew where he wanted
To go to College. What career he would like, as if
The whole world was his for the choosing. Once, he answered me without fearing
Tombstones or cages or the hands from a father. The hands of my lover
Yesterday, praised my whole body. Made the angels from my lips, Ave Maria
Full of Grace. He propped me up like the roof of a cathedral, in NYC
Before, we opened the news and read. And read about people who think two brown queers
Cannot build cathedrals, only cemeteries. And each time we kiss
A funeral plot opens. In the bedroom, I accept his kiss, and I lose my reflection.
I am tired of writing this poem, but I want to say one last word about
Yesterday, my father called. I heard him cry for only the second time in my life
He sounded like he loved me. It’s something I am rarely able to hear.
And I hope, if anything, his sound is what my body remembers first.
* * *
To honor our dead, and fight like hell for the living, we need a new vision for safety that prioritizes human rights and does not facilitate deadly violence. We need a world that realizes that the word “terrorist” is not synonymous with Muslim, any more than “criminal” is synonymous with Black. The enemy is now and has always been the four threats of white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, and militarism. These forces and not Islam create terrorism. These forces, and not queerness, create homophobia. These forces unleash destruction primarily on those who are Trans, and queer, and brown and Black, and we are the first to experience its’ violence. These forces create the conditions for our dehumanization and our death, and we will hold them to account, no matter whose face they may wear.
Until these systems are defeated, until anti-Blackness no longer fuels anti-Muslim and anti-queer and trans bigotry, exploitation, and exclusion — we can never be truly free. (In Honor of Our Dead: Latinx, Queer, Trans, Muslim, Black — We Will Be Free, Black Lives Matter)
Pia Cortez is a writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She runs a book blog called Libromance where she reviews books and publishes literary features with a queer Filipino immigrant lens. She is a contributor at Hella Pinay, an online magazine for Filipino-American women and at New Life Quarterly, a literary magazine based in Oakland, California. She is currently working on her first novel.