It was the winter break before I turned 18 and I was snowed in. I decided to binge watch Queer As Folk on Netflix, a TV show that chronicles the lives a gay white men living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It seemed for almost every episode that ended up at one of the local gay clubs in the area, this was my true first exposure to gay clubs. I’ve always watched a bunch of ballroom videos where predominately QPOC go to vogue and walk against each other all in good fun. (SEE: Paris is burning) There was something freeing about watching the sea of people on Queer As Folk dancing to the music. Sweaty, shirtless, and unapologetically. This made my excited for when I turned 18 because I wanted to go to a club just like that, with people just. like. me.
So fastward, now it’s spring and its my birthday weekend. I’m super pumped to go to my first gay club. So I freak out about what to wear, I mean the whole idea of the club is to find “someone” right? So I end up wearing these above kneecap shorts with a flannel tied around my waist, ankle high boots and a blue v-cut shirt. I thought I was cute, but also exposed -because for most of my life I’ve benefited from passing privilege – the line for the club was wrapped around the corner, with people of all genders, creed, and binaries waiting to get in. And while I felt at home waiting in line I was also cautious. Because we were outside, still in a hetero-normative environment. Where people like us are shamed for expressing who we are.
So for what seems like an hour and two or three cars staring at us, we finally made it inside the club. The music was blasting, people were sweaty and dancing and no one was judging, or laughing. Being inside the club felt like I was able to get finally get free -after about a few drinks -. It wasn’t like the TV though. It was a lot more diverse, but it wasnt magically like the show, it had its own magic to me. I enjoyed myself, I danced I laughed, I made new friends. Once it was time to go home and the club let everyone out, The smile I had, the joy that was brought to be by the environment was gone, because I knew I was entering into a space that was dominated with beliefs and practices that were against people like me. Which isn’t to say gay clubs are serendipitous, they too come with faults. They too still exemplify and uphold cisheteropartriachal practices at time. However for the most part being in the moment with the thumpa thumpa and people just like me, its a holy feeling, almost like church. Gay spaces are sacred grounds.
Which is to say that the shooting that happened in Orlando was a hate crime. It was him wanted to take away the few resources and spaces we have to call our home. It was his attempt to silence us, take away our happiness. And just to be clear and attack on any gay club is an attack on ALL gay clubs. My heart hurts for those who have loss their lives to such a violent act. This is something I can promise everybody on the spectrum fears. From cis passing white men, to the trans and non binary women of color. Women like Yaz’min Shancez, who were murdered for living their life authentically. This is our reality, this is our struggle. That people like the gunman in Orlando are so homophobic they’ll go to any lengths to harm us.
A lot of talk from the news and media has been saying it has relations to ISIS which I mean, yeah that sounds good if you want to push an anti-Muslim rhetoric to the american people, but we all know thats not true. I just feel like ISIS wouldn’t send someone to shoot up a gay nightclub that seems so left field, I feel like this is something someone who has a personal vendetta or hatred for a group of people would do, to his us where it hurts most during pride month. Just like the gunman who shot up the church. We’ve come so far in the movement for equality and my fear is that this incident will cause us to be pushed back. It will cause many more Americans who were ready to come out the closet to be more reluctant, and I just want to say to anyone who is considering coming out or dealing with anything don’t let this gunman win. Live your life authentically, be happy, get married, love unconditionally.
There isn’t a day that goes by that im afraid someone will decide today will be the day they will harm me because im black, or because im gay (Or because both) but to be afraid, to hide who I am to make someone else comfortable is to give them the power, to give them agency over my life and I don’t wish that for anyone. Lastly, give people time to grieve. Especially family and friends who had loved ones in PULSE, both living and dead. This tragedy hasn’t been easy for them. Do check in with your friends who are LGBTQIA+. Don’t feel like they NEED to talk to you, especially if you’re straight, offer an ear don’t force one. Be careful with what you share on social media, somethings might seem cool or catchy but might be false information or triggering.
I always marveled at rainbows, how even after the worst of storms it shined through.