I'm gonna talk about Orlando. Of course I'm gonna talk about Orlando.
Last night we watched How to Survive a Plague about the AIDS activist group, Act Up. It was a great flick, and I'd recommend it highly. First, I didn't realize that Act Up's primary focus was fighting the NIH and the FDA to push through testing of experimental AIDS drugs. This group, almost singlehandedly, got critical and life-saving drugs pushed through the approval process much faster than was happening at the time (which was excruciatingly slow due to the stigma of who had the disease---homos). They were able to get protease inhibitors to the people who were dying decades faster than it would have happened on its own. At the end of the movie, I felt so much pride for this small group of desperately committed men who affected such sweeping changes in this country. These were my people.
Second, yesterday I posted a meme on my Facebook page---half-seriously and half-jokingly---about how the Orlando murderer singlehandedly mobilized a huge block of people to take on gun control and how "these queens get shit done." After watching this documentary, I was reminded how true that actually is. The Act Up folks were terribly smart, uniquely motivated, and highly organized. Sick of being turned away at hospitals, they started an underground drug network, smuggling experimental drugs in from other countries. Then they started compiling data on these patients and sharing that info with the FDA because no one else cared enough to do it. They organized huge protests in front of drug company headquarters until the companies agreed to look at Act Up's data and work with them to develop treatments. In short, they got shit done.
You know who gets shit done? Bitches and queens.
And then, 30 years later, they mobilized an entire country in less than a goddamned decade to accept same-sex marriage as a civil right. From the moment we lost the Prop 8 issue in November 2008, the community mobilized a campaign---both legal and social---to turn around the thinking of mainstream America in just seven years (until the Supreme Court ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional in 2015). Seven years for sweeping social change is unheard of! Lookit us go!
But now this community---my community---is reeling from what is rapidly shaping up not to have anything to do with extreme religion but rather just good old-fashioned homophobia and self-loathing. We have been left shaking and bleeding and reeling, seeing firsthand the backlash of such rapid acceptance. I see clearly what our next fight will be.
Look, I'm not naïve. In the battle of The Queens vs. The NRA, I have no illusions about who is better-funded. And it's always the people with more money who win. And if the dozens of grieving parents of murdered six-year olds can't change the system after Sandy Hook, why would I think an oppressed group of people, whose vagina-on-vagina and penis-on-penis action many Americans find distasteful, can get anything accomplished? I guess part of me is hoping that now that we've seen how mainstream opinion can affect policy change (as it did with same-sex marriage), the same will happen with guns. That the more groups that bigots and homophobes alienate with each mass shooting (blacks, Latinos, gays, parents, etc.) will just add to the growing cries of tighter gun regulations until the politicians realize they can't take the NRA's money anymore without being publicly shamed. And I guess part of me is hoping that having enough experienced activists in the gay community will make this next attack on gun control smarter. I know, I'm being naive. We no longer live in a democracy by any stretch---votes can be (and are) openly purchased by special interests and, unfortunately, the people with the most money are never the people with my best interests at heart.
On a personal note, I've been reeling in emotions these past two days. Yes, there has been sadness, but that's giving way to anger. Fuck this shit. I actually argued with a gun nut online yesterday. I KNOW better! I guess I'm shocked that I'm still shocked by the lack of compassion I've been seeing from pro-gun people. Fifty fucking people were mowed down with an AR-15, and the asshole I was arguing with was splitting hairs about how an AR-15 doesn't actually fire any faster than her handgun (for which she has a concealed carry license) so...
So. So fucking what? It was a weapon, a weapon of mass destruction, made by and for the military to be used in combat. Never intended for use among the citizenry. And crazy fucks are buying it with the express intention of killing as many people in as short of time as possible. And this is the direction of your argument---parsing out rounds per second as though that were the issue?!? I am flabbergasted at what people tell themselves and how their interest of being right Trumps (capitalization intended) their compassion for fellow human beings.
I'm angry because what should be a no-brainer---making access to this weapon harder---is something that's controversial. We've become so polarized that even something as simple as 50 dead innocent citizens immediately becomes politicized. Immediately, as in, within minutes. I've watched as pro-gun folks' first reaction was to roll their eyes and say, "Great, now the gun-control nuts will use this argument for tighter gun control," (a logical response) instead of "Oh my god, how awful! What can we do about this epidemic?" Everyone is more interested in their side being right than in basic human compassion. When did we become this society? Oh right, when we elected a black man as president and old white dudes went nuts that he would start treating them the way black folks have been treated for centuries; turns out there was backlash on that issue as well. We are not a nation to easily grasp the complexities of a situation and prefer to see things in mostly Black or White terms (again, caps intended).
I'm angry that even in the liberal, gay-friendly Bay Area, I now have to worry that some deranged fool with a gun will spy me exchanging an innocent kiss with my wife on the street and will follow us home and rape and kill us. (Yes, I've actually followed that thought line to its completion.) And I'm furious that that thought even crossed my mind. I'm angry that I even have to *think* about checking myself.
Most of my life, I identified as straight. I was 36 when I met my wife and fell head over heels in love with a person, regardless of her genitals. We were two peas in a pod, and there was no way I could pass that up. And anyone who has spent time with us in real life can see it, how perfect we are for each other. More than one friend has said to me "Y'all are my favorite couple." Not favorite gay couple, just favorite couple. That there are people in this world that want to murder my wife and me for something so beautiful and life-affirming is something I've always carried with me, yes. But Orlando has brought that terrifyingly to the forefront of my mind.
Lookit how cute we are, for fuck's sake. How can you hate us?
I know she and I will continue to be ourselves, will continue to speak up for injustice against any group of people, not just "our people" when we see it happening. That is who we are---we are compassionate, empathetic people who don't like to see people being treated unjustly. We have been infinitely blessed with love and support around us all of the time. Our families and our friends shower us with love and let us know they support us unconditionally, both as individuals and as a couple. And our friends are raising their children with this same love and acceptance, which is heartening to watch.
It's a counterbalance of hope against the rage I feel most of the time that I'm just sitting around waiting for old, conservative, white men to die so we can get on with the business of making this a more loving, inclusive, and accepting country. A counterbalance to the hatred I see Trump and religious leaders inciting across this country. You want to blindly hate all people who worship a particular religion that incites violence? Fine, hate Muslims, but you gotta hate Christians too. They may no longer be beheading people, but they used to. Remember the Inquisition? When it comes to religion, they all have blood on their hands, and the fact that there are men and women in DC who are trying to rule this country as "a Christian nation" is no better than ISIS trying to get the world to bow to Fundamentalist Islamic rule.
The world is under no obligation to operate on YOUR terms. How hard is that to grasp? How hard is it to think "homosexuality isn't my jam, but live and let fucking live, man" and go about your own goddamned business? How hard is it to look at the person in front of you and not judge them based on their religion, sexual orientation, gender, or skin color and not hold them accountable for the sins of a deranged person? Apparently, it's pretty fucking hard for a lot of people in this godforsaken country right now.
See? See how quickly I was talking about love, and I devolved into rage? Right now, I'm trying so hard not to let the dueling emotions of sadness and anger consume me and to focus on that love and hope instead. But it's hard, y'all, so fucking hard. Just remember, many of your gay friends are struggling right now. Please drop them a kind word and let them know you love and support them. You think it won't matter much or that it will be corny; it won't. Also, if you could read this, I'd be much obliged. It's the best thing I've read on Orlando and encapsulates a lot of what I'm struggling with myself.
I am who I am because of gay men. I count them among my earliest friends, confidantes, and influences. I am quick-witted, sharp-tongued, and campy. I am mouthy, opinionated, and sassy. I have shared so many pivotal moments of my life, both triumphant and deeply humbling, with gay men. They are among the most compassionate, kind-hearted, witty, fun-loving, brash people on this planet. The world needs more of that right now: fun and sassy and light-hearted. When I think about how it could have been any one of us in Pulse that night, I weep for the future of these victims, stolen so young. And I weep for how numb we are all growing toward this.
Spread the love. I'm having a hard time doing that just now. Forgive me.