An open letter to my straight friend N., who wrote: “You matter to me. Sending you love from across this country and am mourning with you.”
N., thank you. That means all the world to me. You’re the only straight person who has actually reached out to me directly to make contact with me around this. The grief is so enormous that I barely know how to hold myself together.
I was on a plane yesterday, flying from San Francisco to Pennsylvania, going from my community full of people I love who are as impacted by these events as I am to a place where I don’t have any queer community or anybody who routinely holds me when I cry. It was the loneliest feeling.
I was so so sad. I cried in every airport and in every airplane. I was full of grief about the loss and the death and the hatred and the homophobia and xenophobia and racism and Islamophobia and I was also profoundly shaken and scared about what it means for queer people and brown people and brown queer people everywhere.
I feel afraid. This thing that has happened reminds me of how vulnerable my body is, how vulnerable my communities are, how impossible it is to stay safe as a brown queer person. My mother keeps telling me things like, if I go dancing make sure to know where the exits are. She’s so scared for me. I keep telling her it is impossible to be safe. Those beautiful innocent people who died didn’t die because they didn’t know where the exits are. They died because this country breeds hatefulness and intolerance and violence. There is no set of rules I can follow to ensure my safety from the violence that comes with hatred.
I will be marching in the San Francisco Pride parade in two weeks. Who knows when and how my life will end? Maybe it will be then.
I have felt so isolated from community – it is scary to come home to the place I left literally because it was too homophobic for me to stay and to be here when I’m dealing with this kind of colossal tragedy. I want to be with all of my people and we are all scattered to the wind, in our separate places. As I talk to some of my queer friends, I notice that that is when we become most distressed, most grief-stricken, most afraid: when we are separated from the people we feel the safest with, when we can’t hold onto each other’s bodies for comfort or for confirmation of their continued existence.
Why isn’t everybody, everywhere in mourning? Crying with me in the streets, on the airplanes, in restaurants?
It feels relieving to hear from my queer friends and to know how they are coping with all of this, to share contact and comfort and to reflect back to them that they are not crazy and that all of their feelings make sense and whatever they need is the right thing to do – and it also feels relieving to hear from my straight friends who care, who get it.
The world is full of straight people. I need to know that you care and that you get it and that you feel it and that you are with us and that the most horrible thing in the universe to me isn’t trivial to you. That I’m not trivial to you. That our lives matter, not just to ourselves.
That helps me feel safer. Less invisible, less like the colossal impact of this horrific nightmare of a situation on queer brown people everywhere will go unnoticed. It helps me feel like there are people, maybe even here in Doylestown, Pennsylvania who might be feeling these things, too, and who might be safe haven or ally.
Feeling reckless, but needing to be in solidarity with my people even when isolated and far from home (especially when isolated and far from home), I put a big button that says “Queer” on the bag I carry everywhere. I couldn’t stand to be invisible as a queer person here, even though I feel more afraid, more aware that my outness as a black, queer woman could cost me my life.
I have been having trouble making words about this situation. I mostly make tears and snot and gasps and gulps of air and racking sobs. Thank you, N., for writing to me and helping me make some sentences, even though many tears were shed in the making of them.
I hope that straight people everywhere will reach out to queer friends and family and co-workers and neighbors to check in. (It is not too late for this. It will never be too late for this. It cannot be done enough.) Let them know that they are seen and cared about and valued, that their lives matter to you. Offer them support and safety and sanctuary. Affirm that whatever they need right now is okay, that their feelings are valid and make sense. Mourn with them and stand with them and activate your resources (of heart, of mind, of time, and/or money) to help make change in this situation. Love is needed and thoughtfulness and education and effort and activism and financial contribution to a wide variety of places. It’s going to take a lot of work to care for all of the people who have been impacted by this situation and it’s going to take even more work to make the changes necessary to transform the culture and change the laws so that things like this (homophobic/racist gun violence) don’t happen in the future.
Please let us know you’ve got our backs. We need you.