by: Krissy Trujillo
Already living with a certain level of fear most people never have to face, a senseless tragedy strengthens a community’s resolve to push back…
“I was just at that club last Saturday for Pride. My mom is going to freak when she sees the news.”
That was the text I awoke to early Sunday morning. It came from one of my best friends who recently moved to Orlando. Confused, not quite awake, and not having yet checked social media, I replied, “That you went to a club for Pride?”
As soon as I opened Twitter the context of her text began to sink in. My confusion quickly turned to dread, fear, and overwhelming heartbreak. I rarely find myself so wrought with emotion that I don’t have words, but that is exactly how I felt.
Saturday afternoon, about twelve hours before the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, I made plans to attend Latin night at my local gay club, Feathers, later in the week. Feathers and Pulse aren’t terribly different, they’re both relatively the only clubs in Orlando or North Jersey, respectively, that are LGBTQ+ specific, and this made me realize a very unnerving fact: I could have been in that club. My best friends could have been in that club. This could have been any of us.
I understand that everyone has fears. I understand that, especially in recent years, with more and more mass shootings and attacks, places many think of as safe – churches, movie theatres, schools – have become soft targets, where you suddenly find yourself on high alert. I understand that everyone is affected to some extent by this, but you see, as a Queer person, I already live with a certain level of fear my heterosexual counterparts never have to face.
No matter how loud and proud I am – and have been for the past decade – I’m still highly aware of, what feels like, everyone staring when I walk down the street holding another girl’s hand. I still feel self-conscious giving another girl a goodnight kiss – not even properly making out, but just a kiss – on the street, because I know the chances that someone around me might make a crass remark, or even worse, attack me, is a reality. I live in a world where I have to be careful of who I choose to share my sexuality with, because it can literally put my life at risk. Straight people don’t have to live with this, and they’ll never quite understand that risk. They’ll never know what it’s like to have people spit on them simply for holding hands with the one they love, or have men make disgusting remarks and gestures when you embrace in public.
That’s why having a space like Pulse is so important to people of the LGBTQ+ community. Nightclubs like this act as a safe haven, a place where we can feel comfortable openly expressing our sexuality without having the fear of people sneering at or attacking us. These types of venues are the one place I know I can kiss another girl. No one is going to come up to us as it’s happening and ask for a threesome. This is a safe space. And our safe space was attacked. Our safe haven was taken from us. Our sanctuary was taken from us. A safety we already feel is limited as is, was stolen in a hail of bullets and hate. That’s one of the many reasons why this senseless tragedy has hit so close to home for so many, myself included.
The Orlando attack was devastating, and makes the case stronger for those of us whose sexual and gender identities are constantly under scrutiny to band together. Be loud. Be proud. People want us afraid. That’s how they gain power – by making us think that we have nothing and no one and nowhere to go. We need to show these cretans that this is not the case. We’re stronger in unity. I’m done trying to make people feel comfortable. I’m done trying to monitor how often I talk about sexuality and how open displays of my affection upset others. You know what? Your being disgusted by my existence disgusts me, and I’m over it. We’re here, we’re queer, and we ain’t goin’ anywhere.