In the aftermath of this weekend’s tragedy at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, one thing seems to be at the forefront of many of my friends’ minds right now: Gun control.
But that’s not the first thing on the minds of my friends in the community most affected by this event: Queer & trans people of color. The tragic event which is being called America’s worst mass shooting (since Wounded Knee, users on social media were quick to point out) happened at a gay dance club, during Pride month, at an event targeted towards the queer & trans Latinx community.
I was furious at the the first two posts I saw about the shooting on Facebook, both from straight white cis men. One post lamented that while all mass shootings are tragic, let’s not “use this as an example why we shouldn’t have firearms.” The other post was lambasting Hillary Clinton for having a gun lobbyist her team.
Wtf? How dare these people use the death of those in my community to further their own agendas. I actually posted that in the second example and was met with a defensive, “Seriously? YOUR community?” by one of their friends.
Um, yes, MY community.
Look, I get it, cis white friends. You are our friends and you love us. A senseless act of violence has occurred and you want to make sense of it. You want to help in a helpless situation, but what else can you do?
Well, as a queer & trans Latinx in your world, let me tell you what has been on the forefront of my mind lately (not that you asked!)
This event and the aftermath are further proof of why QTPOC need our own spaces.
On the forefront of my mind is how systemic racism and misogyny played a role in this tragedy. Because I can’t not think about it. Because it’s literally killing us. And that didn’t start on Saturday night.
Hate violence keeps rising
According to a 2013 national report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), The majority of victims of hate violence homicides (72%) in 2013 were transgender women.
“More than two thirds of the homicide victims were transgender women, while 67% of victims of homicide were transgender women of color… This data follows a multi-year trend where the victims of fatal hate violence are overwhelmingly transgender women, and in particular transgender women of color.“
Would you be surprised to learn Seattle had the third-highest rate of hate crimes against LGBT people among large U.S. cities in 2012? Just last year, Seattle’s longest running and largest LGBTQ nightclub Neighbours in Capitol Hill was the target of arson for the second time in the span of a year and a half.
Existence is resistance
According to a 2014 report by The Williams Institute & the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 46 percent of trans men and 42 percent of trans women reported having attempted suicide in their lifetimes.
Now, think about your QTPOC friends. Do you think about those numbers when you think about us? Do you think the one or two QTPOCs in your life are super-humans who are immune to these statistics?
“I exist” and “My existence is resistance” are common sayings in the QTPOC community. The onus should not fall upon us to have to continually reaffirm and validate our own existences. It’s exhausting.
Are police really there to protect us?
This is deeply concerning to us: According to NCAVP, in 2014, 54 percent of survivors of hate crimes reported their incidents to the police, and of those reporting, 27 percent said they experienced hostile attitudes from the police. Only 6 percent of reported incidents were classified as bias crimes. Of the survivors who interacted with the police and experienced hostility and police misconduct, 57 percent reported being unjustly arrested by the police.
Shortly after the news from Orlando spread, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole released this statement:
“The Seattle Police Department offers its sincere condolences to all affected by today’s tragic mass shooting in Orlando. I have been in communication with senior officials from the FBI and DHS, as well as our state and local law enforcement partners. While there is no information indicating any specific threat to Seattle, residents can expect to see increased police in the community. As always, we ask that all in our community remain vigilant and contact police if you see something suspicious.”
Last year after Trans Pride, I walked back through Cal Anderson park and found a trans woman of color sitting on the cold concrete in handcuffs. The police constantly mis-gendered her and were unnecessarily aggressive and belittling when I confronted them about it.
As I left the vigil at Cal Anderson last night I saw what appeared to be an armored police tank near the prescient in Capitol Hill. This does not make me feel safe.
QTPOC spaces threatened
I wish I could mourn this tragedy with members from all of my communities, but I can’t.
This event and the aftermath are further proof of why QTPOC need our own spaces. I am grateful for dance nights here in Seattle like Caramelo, Night Crush, Soul-Fi and Darqness which center QTPOC folks.
But I see spaces like these questioned all the time. Whenever queer, trans, or POC try to create spaces for ourselves, not only do our spaces get threatened, but so do our lives.
We live in a society where perpetrators of hate crimes are allowed to claim gay or trans panic as a legal defense. Such defenses don’t dispute a defendant’s guilt but instead “aim to reduce sentencing by arguing that the defendant’s actions were motivated by an uncontrollable fear of unwanted sexual advances from someone of the same sex.”
I am grateful for the vigil that is being put on tonight for the QTPOC community, which asks of white allies: “We welcome any donations of food, candles or monetary donations for the victims and families impacted by the shooting. We’d like to reserve the space for POC so donations may be the best way for ally support.”
Here, we will not talk about gun control, religion or politicians. This will be an opportunity to hold space for each other, and the families in Orlando who are having trouble understanding what is happening because they don’t speak English, and the families who are too afraid to talk with the police or the FBI due to fear of deportation. Here we will stand together in the fight against Islamophobia. Here we’ll celebrate intersectionalities and create a safe space to heal together.
If you’re feeling suicidal, please talk to somebody. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or Trans Lifeline at 1-877-565-8860. If you’d like to talk to a peer, warmline.org contains links to warmlines in every state. If you don’t like the phone, check out Lifeline Crisis Chat or Crisis Text Line. If you’re not in the U.S., click here for a link to crisis centers around the world.