This Pride month, I remember how much of the American LGBTQ+ movement’s progress has cost the lives and livelihood of real people.
Last year’s Orlando massacre is still fresh in my memory, still real, still keeps me indoors when I want to go out. I felt it from miles away, alone in a tiny apartment, in a Southern city I knew perhaps three to five other people in, fleeing transphobic family and fleeing another in a series of transphobic housing situations, and trying to start a life in whatever place would have me. I go through periods where I can be kind of a shut-in, but Orlando undid the small confidences I had built that helped me leave my house to do things like buy groceries, shop for clothing, take walks, ride my bicycle, make eye contact with strangers. It did not create, but it did exaggerate very real agoraphobia and social anxiety, and it really undermined my ability to trust the essential goodness I want to believe lives in other people enough to not think they mean me harm. Perhaps being able to think other people don’t mean you harm is a privilege I can no longer claim. I called a suicide hotline later in the month, needing to talk to someone about how vulnerable and afraid and targeted and defenseless and helpless and hopeless I felt.
That fear of the outside world seems very, very rational and very, very real when the longer you live, the more it seems like America wants to define itself by how many people like you it can kill because of who you are, how many lives America can make more difficult and outright ruin and even end at the policy level, how much care America can refuse to provide those who need it, how alienated and anxious and depressed and brimming with self-loathing America can work to make its queer citizens.
If I try to do anything when I write about my experiences, on the rhetorical level, I try to document and report and explore and pinpoint and give names to the effects of these practices, of this culture of hate, on the individual. I want that to be enough to work as resistance, but I know it isn’t.
The world will be there. We can change it. These days, this is where I find hope.
That is what’s on my mind this Pride month, which our current administration refuses to acknowledge exists. The gesture, or lack thereof, seems at once so laughable and so sad. Trying to pretend–believing–millions of people don’t exist, pretending we don’t deserve basic human rights, doesn’t make us disappear, doesn’t take away our humanity. But it does wound, and it does encourage other people to do the same. For better and worse, I try to take those wounds and turn them into better things, like community, like love, like art, like compassion, whatever I can with what I have.
I have been out as a trans woman for five years. I was twelve when I knew I was trans, but it took fifteen years to admit it to myself and to feel ok about my transness enough to tell other people. I have only recently begun exploring my sexuality enough to know I am bisexual or somewhere thereabouts.
So this Pride month, I am going to go to Pride (my first ever). And I am going to look people in the eye. And I am going to trust the throng of people I will let myself be vulnerable with–my beautiful queer family–to look back, and to invite me closer.
(reposted from my facebook)