"These things happened amongst us"- those are the words that begin the report on the grave human rights abuses that were conducted by both sides during the Salvadorian Civil War, the one event that has shaped my life more than any other could, would or will. The five words of that sentence are attributed to a Mayan poem. Not only did my ancestors leave us pyramids and resplendent artworks to remember them by, they also left a warning of sorts, that these atrocities happened amongst us, they happened before us.
Engraved on my consciousness as formative and devastating moments that have shaped my life directly and indirectly are the massacre of El Mozote, the massacre on the steps of the San Salvador Cathedral, which my parents lived through and the massacre that happened in Orlando, Florida overnight. A massacre where a large number of people killed were queer Latinos, like me. Why am I so upset, angry, devastated, dispirited and disillusioned?
I want to single out and thank all non-queers who have shown solidarity and support for my communities, I don't want to downplay it whatsoever but where is everyone else? I don't expect the ideologues, the homophobes, the transphobes, the mysoginists or the biphobes to all of a sudden don rainbow sashes in solidarity. While it would be ideal to see, their starting premise is incompatible with ours. They hate us for existing, whereas we demand respect because we exist and until they can come to the table with respect for our existence in abundance they are not welcome. Where are all the others though? Where is the outrage, even if feigned by those who claim to support us, or even like us? Our fight is yours too and if you do not see this then you can't enjoy the many benefits of our queer culture. You don't get to pick and choose what you like about our culture and you certainly don't get to be ambivalent as to whether I have the right to respect and dignity. If you think what happened in Orlando is not about you, because you're not queer then you're wrong.
To anyone that laughed at Will and Grace but allowed homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and any other ism to continue unchecked and unchallenged in their workplaces, streets or home. To any rabid follower of RuPaul's Drag Race that has introduced pithy statements like 'YAAASSSS', 'come through', 'the house down' or, 'sickening' to their vocabulary and doesn't have a position on whether kids should be safe at school from being bullied because they're LGBT.
To anyone who has owned or desired threads by Balenciaga, Balmain, Cardin, Dior, Gaultier, Wan, Lagerfeld, Mizrahi, Saint Laurent, Valentino, Versace, Wang or Wu, but is ambivalent or despondent when it comes to queer rights. To anyone that watches Lip Sync Battle and isn't woke enough to see that it's a blatant rip off of drag culture. To anyone happy to use an Oscar Wilde quote to appear sarcastic on Facebook (even if it's the lowest form of wit) but ended their support for LGBT rights by signing a 'marriage equality' petition five years ago I want to say the following: they're killing us one by one, they're killing us in groups and they're killing us alone. Not just in Orlando, but everywhere, it is unfortunately true that in some parts of the world the situation is worse than in others but they're killing us. If you confuse visibility for acceptance and respect, fuck you. If you're happy to have your gay hairdresser but are not virulently outraged at this massacre: fuck you.
Now is not the time to celebrate our many political and social gains here and elsewhere. The time now is about doing a lot more than that. We need to pin our gains as well as our pride, our sorrow, our grief and our hopes to our chest. We need to remember that our communities are not and have never, ever, been full of weak people or helpless people or cowards. Our gains were not built and won by fearful queers. This situation is petrifying but it cannot be immobilising. It is weakening to us as a community but it is not fatal. We have never been recumbent or slow in demanding that we be respected not because we are 'like you', but because we are exceptional.
Now is a time for mourning, because we have lost comrades, friends, extended family. Most of us never knew the victims of course but we are family nonetheless because our bonds were forged with a common understanding. A common understanding of what it's like to live in fear because of your sexuality or gender. An understanding of what it's like to grow up knowing you're gay and not seeing a problem with it until you realise the whole world has a problem with you. We know what safety in numbers feels like because the world if not just unwelcoming to your existence can be incredibly hostile to it. The edifying fear of imminent violence based on characteristics you can't control binds a community together, and so does love. This is why we are family.
So today, we mourn, we stand in solidarity, we reflect. Some of us (me, certainly) may even hide, dispirited or too devastated to act. This can only be temporary, it has to be temporary because our history is not one of cowards. Whether it's through the example of the many trans women of colour that kickstarted the Stonewall Riots, the women and men that fought and fight government and community inaction on HIV/AIDS; the many sex workers and drug users that showed us that harm minimisation saves lives, the courageous young people that regularly attend the most unsafe place for them to be: school. The bravery of our community is exhibited by anyone and everyone who has had the courage and conviction to hold their partner's hand or give them a kiss in public. Nothing in our history demonstrates that we are a weak or passive community, and there is no way we are starting now.
This moment, friends, we mourn and we regroup- we need to regroup and do so in such a way that has not happened before. We are not our enemy, we are very good at being our enemy, we are not our enemy. Our enemy is not a religion, it's not a man, it's not a race. Our enemy is any one thing or person that would sow seeds of discontent in our hearts to make us scared, to make us hate and to make us betray our history and divide us using spite, venom, bile and prejudice. Queer or non queer alike.
To any queer that now harbours or feels permission to display ardent anti-Muslim sentiment, to any garbage human being that has something akin to 'no fats, no femmes, no Asians, no Indians, or blacks, no walking sticks or chopsticks on their online profiles, to anyone that recoiled in fear and ignorance at someone disclosing their HIV status, to misogynists, misandrists (I guess), respectability politicians and anyone ambivalent about queer rights, I say to you: fuck you also.
They're killing us one by one- there are plenty of barbarians at the gates, we don't need barbarians inside the gates. These things are happening amongst us and the biggest act of rebellion and courage you can show is to continue living your life without fear but with enormous, bucket loads or queer-ass faggotty mother fucking pride because know this: no one of us stands alone, for there are many shoulders to stand on because we are lucky enough to have so many giants.