White queers, this is a betrayal.

Writing from Coast Salish territories.

I’ve just arrived home and I smell like fire.

I feel like fire too. Raging, quiet, resilient.

Today, QTIBIPoC living on Coast Salish territories gathered to mourn, pay respects to, to send love away with the 49 people who were murdered in the Pulse nightclub on June 12th in Orlando, Florida.

Today, I held hands with friends and cried silent tears onto an altar of offerings. Today, I heard prayers spoken in Spanish, in Arabic, in Punjabi and sung in vocables from the lungs of Indigenous bodies. Today, I learnt new ways of loving and healing that I was never allowed to know. Today, I understood why I am crying, 3,000 miles from Orlando.

Vigils have happened and we are late to the game. This time, it is not like usual. We are not late because we are communities of over-worked, labouring bodies not accustomed to (or interested in) Western time structures. We are late because they never invited us to play. The whistle blew and we were still tying our shoelaces.

It is not with ease that I call out white queers (my friends, my family) but it is with passion that I do so. This shooting has been eye-opening to many but I didn’t think that my learning would involve feelings of betrayal, hurt and erasure. They are not here for bodies that are Black and brown and queer. And this really hurts.

They have co-opted a tragedy that bled through the heart of silenced Latinx, Black and racialized communities. They have painted rainbows over undocumented families and migrant workers and son-less mothers and English-less abuelas and forced labourers. They have the energy to create racial division; to blame terrorism, which they use synonymously with Islam yet none to recognise the beauty and profoundness of racialized communities. Can their understandings of race only go as far as demonising Muslim bodies?

I can say this with such certainty because today I stared down at the 49 faces, laid as remembrance on the altar de muertos and was overwhelmed by their brownness. All shades of melanin except the lightest. Why were white people not at the club that night?  This is not to say they should have been; this fate could not be wished upon anyone. This is to say fervently: if white queers are not there for us in life, they mustn’t pretend to be there for us in death.

I get it, you are sad too and thank you for that sadness. It is valid and important. But when your shouts are louder than our (specifically Latinx and Black) cries, the hurt we feel is multiplied.

On that same night, I too danced with friends and lovers in a queer space. (What if it was us?) I too felt the urgency and liberation of blending bodies and hearts with those whom all other interactions are cautious and unsure. I too knew the importance and sacredness of creating spaces outside the walls of heteronormativity and homophobia that we must navigate in all other walks of life.

But I did not feel the same profound and unbinding connection that I’m sure many felt on Latin night in Pulse nightclub. Unless a queer space is specifically for people of colour, I am never an equal participant. I am a token, an object, an exotic presence; stared at but not desired, touched but not loved. It takes everything in me to say this, because my entire existence has been built on the antithesis but I deserve more.

Where are they when our trans friends are murdered? Where are they when we are unhomed because colonization made our families think ancestral ways of loving are wrong? Where are they when our histories are erased by Hollywood? Where are they when our language is appropriated; when “yaass queen” becomes common place on the tongues of white gay men?

This incident is an attack on queer people of colour. This is an issue of race and queerness in tandem and anyone who denies that treads on the graves of the slain. Yes, perhaps the shooter had no intention of gunning down fellow brown bodies but this was never a matter of one man and one gun. This is a matter of America, of guns, of violence, of foreign policy, of conservatism, of white supremacy.

Today, I watched queers of colour come together and locate the direction of Mecca. Today, I lay vibrant prayer mats down on the cold white floors. Today, I heard the azan in a woman’s poetic voice. We must do these things for ourselves because the wider LGBTQ+ community has made it clear they are not here for us. And this really hurts.

Today, I walked with friends to a site of historical resistance, to a piece of these lands and waters gently nurtured by the Coast Salish people. Teary eyed, we burnt the altar offerings, sending the 49 souls to their next place. The waves crashed against the shore; our ancestors are sad too.

I smell like fire, and I’m crying 3,000 miles from Orlando.

5 thoughts on “White queers, this is a betrayal.

    1. I agree with everything here. Except for you don’t include those who were Trans, bisexual, intersex, questioning, asexual, gender queer, gender non-conforming, other-identified in the Pulse shooting.
      I agree that this shooting was not an attack merely on LG space (I say LG space because no one really means it when they say LGBTQ, they don’t want to truly include the rest of those in that acronym). When most killed in this shooting were black and brown bodies what else could it be? This was a direct attack on non-white sexual queer, gender queer, gay, lesbian, bisexual, Trans, intersex, questioning, asexual, gender non-conforming, gender fucking, gender freaks, other-identified. We must seek out and identify all the identities. We must not just make a small mention of some, and make loud resounding mention of others. When only white, LG identities are heard and acknowledged we continue racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, transphobic, biphobic, xenophobic institutional oppressive paradigms, and contribute to great suffering of those who were erased.
      That also holds true when you tell the truth that non-white bodies were the primary attack of this shooting (as well as countless others) but you only include those identities and not all possible ones.

  1. Not the best way to build bridges and find common ground. So what! This is a well deserved kick in the ass of the complacent or disingenuous. The emotion we all can and do hold within is something, I guarantee, this white queer has experienced, violence being the cause as well, not the same as your experience, but devastating nonetheless, and like you said, if I undstood while listening, just as valid in its release.
    Now about the abandonment of reason when the dance requires two or more to hold step but the metronomes off. Yes thats the wonderful thing about 4/4 time, eventually the movement becomes synchronous to the true dance of life… Love, hugs, keeping sights level for a common ground, and a floor of forgiveable but not forgettable offences that need not be reduced to missteps with carpet meant to assuage the fear. You have my utmost admiration and respect for your act of courage, that guaranteed will return the conversation to the real challenge. Speaking up and doing so with love. NOT hate. Peace!

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