"We woke up with the news that children in our community had fallen. The latest victims off senseless gun violence and xenophobia. Today, we gather in body and spirit with people all over the world to remember the forty nine cherubs that lost their lives and ask ourselves what we can do to ensure that such an episode of destruction never happens again." -Xemiyulu Manibusan
For many of us, there is no closet to go back into, so the only way out of this mess is to march right through it. This past weekend Washington held is annual Pride parade as well as the The Equality March for Unity and Pride with particular focus on those who have been actively silenced and neglected. The march was simultaneously held in sister cities throughout the United States, a powerful display of our strength. Speakers included actors Star Ramirez and Asia Kete Dillon, the cofounder of the National Black Justice Coalition, Mandy Carte, and Sarah McBride the Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary. Even with all these powerful speakers, there was a palpable sadness in the air as this was also the anniversary of the Orlando Pulse shooting. Forty-nine dead and 58 injured in what was a targeted attack on the Latino LGBT community.
Immediately after the shooting the media created more damage by trying to position the killer as either insane or a terrorist. People tried to make the situation about some extraordinary circumstances, like how he was a product of ISIS, his father brainwashed him, he was mentally ill, and so on. This is a problematic way to view a mass murder because now there is nothing we can learn if we dismiss their actions as highly unusual. Take a look at Omar Mateen's face, he is not crazy. I was bullied, picked on, tormented and harassed all the way through grade school by guys just like Omar. He's not ill, he's a product of this culture and he represents one of many that make up the majority. Look at him. I'm serious, take a hard look at his picture and let's not pretend that we are seeing something other then what it is. An arrogant boy who is as homophobic as he is a misogynist, just like all the other bad-boys our culture is supports. Sure he made himself a connection through ISIS but I'm pretty sure he was an asshole before he aligned with them, we gave him permission to be this way. This is not the face of a killer, he is the boy next door. This is the real tragedy.
Before we joined the thousands outside for a candle light vigil, there was a theatrical presentation by DiCción Queer, a local Latinx arts organization. The program began with spoken word, music and then the shots rang out. The sounds of gun shots rang through the air and although it was only an audio reenactment, tears poured from my face but my upset was immediately followed by extreme gratitude because I am alive, and these bullet sounds are not. The least I can do is stand here, but instead I get on my knees to try and quiet my trembling knees.
They read the last text exchange between a terrified child and his mother. They read the names of every victim. They gave a room full of strangers, hope. Hope that what happened at Pulse, The UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans, Ramrod and Charlie's in New York City, La Madame in Mexico and in Be Bar right here in America's capitol will never happen again. This moment, while shrouded in tears, was also overflowing with pride. Despite being threatened, we still gathered together to show our strength, in public.