Orlando shooting: Even if I tried…

Kait Fenwick shares some of their personal feelings on the Orlando nightclub shooting.

I’m putting fingers to keys three week’s after the heinous attack was committed upon party-goers at Orlando’s, PULSE nightclub. 21 days on and the dust appears to have settled across the furthest reaches of social media.

My Facebook feed is no longer swamped with pride flags and pledges of solidarity from queers and heterosexual allies alike. And it appears as though Instagram has adopted more dulcet tones as the seven shades of rainbow have now faded to grey.

However, upon speaking to my queer brothers and sisters, and those who sit on the spectrum of in between, the message is still clear – unmarked fear is still prevalent and knowing that Orlando was a crime committed on the basis of who you love still resides at the forefront of our minds.

The day after the attack, myself like so many took to social media platforms for answers – not facts and figures but a greater understanding of why. We all knew what happened, yet many of us still spent hours upon hours searching for reason.

Appalled at mainstreams media’s inability to acknowledge that this was a gay hate crime and not an Islamic terror attack on the Western world sparked anger amongst queers everywhere. And myself, like so many others, shied away from those bigoted outlets and turned inward- as we have been taught our whole lives to seek solidarity with those who face the same oppression.

Discussing that residual fear with our heterosexual allies is complicated. The threads that make up that fabric are worn, not from lack of trying but from lack of understanding in regards to the root of such pain. Jeramey Kraatz summed it up perfectly with the following tweet– “If you can’t wrap your head around a bar or club as a sanctuary, you’ve probably never been afraid to hold someone’s hand in public.”

The first time I stepped into a gay bar, I sobbed uncontrollably. As cliche as it sounds, it was the equivalent of coming home. I will never forget that evening, the people I was with and what I was wearing. Safe spaces are so very important and today the community feels as if those spaces, our sanctuaries, which are few and far between have now been jeopardised the world over.

I didn’t make a status until hours after the attack. My battered queer heart was shattered. I couldn’t stand the idea of constructing a basic post with an overused hashtag in the wake of the death of 49 people, people who have experienced the same systematic oppression I have, as we all have. This event saw bigotry on a new ground.

Jumping on a rainbow tinted bandwagon, decked out in hashtags, does little to ease the pain. Phrases that become online trends overnight, like ‘Pray for Orlando’, while meant well, cannot begin to heal the wounds of those who survived the shooting or lessen the fear felt by the LGBTQIA+ community. Despite not being a victim of the attack, this issue is still a localised one for me and regramming generic image after generic image does little more than rub salt in those wounds. I posted the following in response to the Orlando attack:

Don’t ever silence a queer person if they attempt to discuss their experiences with you. Don’t speak over them- for your voice is always the dominant narrative. Don’t impart your guidance if it’s from a position of straight privilege. Hate on the basis of love is still rife and it sends fear through the veins of those who live their lives beyond the margins of heteronormativity.

When we look at history, when we reflect as a society on events that shaped the world in which we live, the voices that dominate the narratives we encounter are almost exclusively those of the cis, white and heterosexual males who wrote them. In light of the worst contemporary gay hate crime, with the assistance of social media, I only hope this event is discussed and constructed by those who identity in the same way of those who were attacked, and who adopt labels that reside outside cisgendered, heteronormativity.

Feature Image: George Malioras via Flickr, no changes made.