Hatred | Noun: “intense dislike; hate.”
Part 1: Cowardice
Cowardice | Noun: “lack of bravery.”
Last week, at 11:56 PM MST, on the eve of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich of Colorado Springs, Colorado, opened fire on a crowd of LGBTQ+ people during an otherwise-normal night of dancing and entertainment at an LGBTQ+ nightclub, Club Q. After several minutes of relentless gunfire, a US Army Veteran, Richard M. Fierro, fearlessly charged Aldrich, tackling him to the ground and incapacitating him.
Five people died, twenty-five more were injured, and innumerable lives have been irreversibly changed for the worse due to this hateful, barbaric act.
Queer people across the world share in the incommunicable suffering caused by this violence. We are hurt, mourning, angry, and afraid. It is well understood that we all process grief in unique ways, but in this case, there is a common thread felt by us all: not a single one of us is remotely surprised. Society has spent decades, nay centuries, systematically grooming us to accept the injustices bestowed upon us; teaching us throughout our lives that bigotry can be justifiable.
“Maybe this is my fault. Maybe I shouldn’t have painted my nails. Maybe I’m just acting too fa**y.”
This is not on us. This has never been on us. This is on you: cowering world leaders, silent politicians, inflammatory journalists, the straight, white, male, cis-gendered establishment who desperately cling to the power you feel so divinely entitled to wield. You are cowards! Your cowardice lies in your inaction, in the ongoing injustice that you stand idly by and watch from the vast pillars of privilege on which you stand to look down on the rest of us. It is demonstrated by your willing negligence to acknowledge the existence of trans people, and by your lack of motivation to fix a society in which queer people of colour are disproportionately more likely to be the victims of hate crime.
Editorial Note: if you read that last paragraph and felt angry, or defensive, or felt that it was criticising you personally, I encourage you to find and closely examine a reflective surface at your earliest convenience.
This problem is often, however, a systemic one, and is regularly not quite as overt as the tragic event outlined above. This, to them, justifies their inaction; it gives them a reason to delay and point fingers. In their minds, only overt acts deserve their attention. So as usual, their cookie-cutter thoughts and prayers will be issued, they’ll “listen” as the bereaved mourn, and then nothing at all will happen. Weapons of war will still freely be sold to individuals brimming with hatred and violence. And this will happen again.
An example of this more subtle, systemic homophobia is that countless LGBTQ+ children and teenagers are taught in schools around the world that their identity is not a fundamental aspect of their existence, but a political statement they’re simply too young, stupid, and naive to understand. Indeed, in many places, they are actively prohibited from asking questions of their teachers which may lead to them developing a deeper, richer understanding of themselves.
And that’s not even to mention that at the time of writing, it is still punishable by death to be gay in at least 10 countries around the world and is otherwise a criminal offence in many others.
Part 2: Despair
Despair | Noun: “the complete loss or absence of hope.”
I am, intrinsically, a reasonably outspoken person. I won’t stand for injustice, indeed I often actively fight it. This battle though, for my right to exist and to live, and to love freely, and likewise, the rights of my beautiful queer comrades, is starting to take its toll. There is only so much that blogging, and protesting, and arguing, and fighting can realistically achieve in a system which is so fundamentally designed to ensure one’s failure. After a while, the order “sit down, shut up, and get on with it” certainly starts to have its appeal.
I’m tired. I’m tired of fighting for my right to exist. I’m tired of arguing with bigots because “maybe they just don’t know any better.” I’m tired of debating whether the continuous political persecution of LGBTQ+ people can be justified as a “valid moral discussion”. I. Am. Tired.
In my life, I have never met an LGBTQ+ person who has not experienced hate. We carry these experiences with us like trading cards, exchanging stories, comparing notes, and offering advice. Why though? It is often said regarding the sexual assault of women that instead of teaching young women not to go out alone at night, we should teach young men not to rape young women; I wholeheartedly agree with this. Similarly though, instead of teaching young queer people that “it’s just one of those things”, we should teach young straight people not to commit hate-crimes!
In his excellent video on hopelessness, Carlos Maza discusses his own experience with these feelings of loneliness and despair, chronicling almost verbatim what I’ve personally been experiencing recently. If you have an hour, I’d strongly encourage giving it a watch.
Part 3: Progress
Progress | Noun: “development towards an improved or more advanced condition.”
In this seemingly endless chasm of despair, hopelessness, and depression, it can be hard to find a reason to look forward. Admittedly, it has taken me a while to rekindle the fire in my belly that fuels my passion to fight. What has kept me going recently has not been the battle for my own rights, but the continuance of the fight for the rights of my community at large. I’ve found that focusing on camaraderie rather than individualism is an invaluable strategy. Countless incredible people gave their lives on the way to getting us this far, and in my view, it would be insulting to their memory to allow their sacrifice to be in vain.
This is a war, not a battle, and the stoicism of the soldiers on the front line will be instrumental in deciding its outcome. Never accept your marginalisation. Never justify hate. And most importantly, never give up.
I will conclude this meandering word-casserole with one of my favourite quotes from actor, author, political activist, and self-proclaimed “dyke”, Miriam Margolyes:
“The curious thing is that I embraced homosexuality with as much joy and delight as I’ve embraced everything else in my life.”
In loving memory of Daniel Davis Aston (28), Kelly Loving (40), Ashley Paugh (35), Derrick Rump (38), and Raymond Green Vance (22).