It could have been me.
I’ve seen these words written so many times this week. And it’s true, it could have been me. Not at the Pulse; the chances of me being in a club are nil, especially at 2am. I’m more of the ‘cuddle and read at the library’ type (seriously, someone needs to make a cuddle and read club). But the LA pride parade was a target as well and, beyond that, where else? Is it safe to attend pride days at amusement parks? PFLAG meetings? The Trans Night of Remembrance services?
Jeremy and I were on the bus to our local Orlando vigil on Monday when zie turned to me and said, “I bet someone’s going to shoot up one of the vigils.”
“It won’t be ours,” I assured zir. “Our city’s too small.”
Not the best reassurance but it was all I had. Then we got there and zie saw the crowds. Instantly Jeremy became agitated, snapping at me for not knowing exactly what was going on and terrified I was going disappear and leave zir alone in the crowd.
“I can’t do this,” Jeremy admitted a few minutes later. “I’m scared I’m going to be too loud and stand out too much and look different. I’m too anxious. I really need to go home now. Please can I go home?”
I tried to get zir to watch videos on zir phone until zie calmed down and offered a breathing app but Jeremy was too scared. Zie blamed zir high school teachers for picking at zir every time zie stood out in some way and I agree that didn’t help. But I also blame every single person who blatantly stared at zir at the store and on the sidewalk. Every rude comment yelled from cars. Every conversation and discussion that treated zir rights as different and a bit less. Each month my peacock of a teen fades a bit more. And in this space, where Jeremy should have felt zir safest, zie was scared.
Words kill in a myriad of ways.
I have spent my whole life being labelled as different, weird, strange, odd, quirky, freak, a loner. I sat in a therapist’s office yesterday and detailed the bullying I remembered from school, from the little I actually remember about school. I’ve blocked so much of it. She’s been a therapist for years. I figured she’d heard just about everything. Besides, what I went through wasn’t that bad. I’m struggling because I’m weak. I’m sure people have been through a lot worse. Then I watched as her face registered shock and horror. At the end, she went through all the paperwork I’d filled out and tallied the results. Severe depression. Severe anxiety. Extreme risk of suicide.
“Mom, there’s only two times you’re allowed to jump off our balcony.” Jeremy told me. Zir voice was serious. “If you learn how to fly or if there’s a zombie right behind you.”
I stay because there’s family who love me and friends who care and three snuggly cats I’d confuse and upset. Maybe someday I’ll stay because I matter, maybe someday those words will mean something. But that’s not today. I’m tired right down in my soul… in the deepest part of myself. I’m tired of always being a few steps off. Even in the LGBTQ community, I don’t exactly fit. I’m ace. I got married long before I’d ever heard the word asexual and long before I’d ever fallen in love.
If you’ve never been in love, how do you know what it is? How much stronger is it than friendship? What if you’re friends and he loves you? I figured it must be love and tried my hardest… but it wasn’t. And then I fell in love with my best friend, who was non-binary at the time and then male. I always figured I was straight because I look at pictures of men and think they’re cute and cuddly but don’t feel the same urge to snuggle with women. But I also think androgynous people are cute… and friends. I’m sexually adverse to the thought of a vulva but sexually indifferent to the thought of a penis and in both cases would much rather snuggle. And how do you sort out sexual orientation when you’ve only been in love once? That’s about when I figure, fuck it, I’ll just get another cat instead of dating.
They were offering free pins for LGBTQ people and allies at the vigil on Monday. I searched through but nothing really fit me. What I needed was a “confused as hell but still here” pin. Which pretty much sums up my whole life.
Words kill in another way. Sometimes the hatred blows outwards instead of in.
People are baffled by how or why the shooter could have shot up the bar he frequented. Who knows why? Well, maybe it’s because he lived in a culture that considers LGBTQ people to be lesser and regularly talks about shooting them. I’ve lost count of the number of quotes I’ve seen this month alone that read along the lines of “If I see some freak in the washroom with my wife/daughter, I’ll shoot them!”
Maybe he felt trapped. Trapped by a society that sees gay people as different and by a state that fights for less protections… less rights. Trapped by a family who based his worth on the wife he needed to produce the son who’d carry his name. Maybe he felt worthless because of everything he read, saw and observed over the years. Countless school yard slurs, jokes, and manly put downs. Maybe he was angry because he went to the bar and saw everyone else having a good time… and how dare they be allowed to be open and themselves while he couldn’t. He couldn’t know their stories… their families… their pasts… but he could see their happiness. I have yet to see an article which talks about him being happy. He couldn’t change society or his family but he could buy a gun. And the society that taught him to hate handed him one. I don’t have much sympathy for someone who destroyed so many lives but I do want society to stop producing more of him.
Words kill. We need to stop telling people… telling children… that they need to be tougher, stronger, and braver. That they’re hurting until their souls bleed because they’re too weak. We need to fix society, just like Leelah asked a year and a half ago. How many more will die before we succeed?