Pride, Pulse, and My Sexuality
Today marks the end of Capital Pride weekend in DC. Today is also exactly one year after the massacre at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, when forty-nine beautiful humans were taken from the world. Today has been hard and strange, and I have a lot of thoughts after the last three days.
Over the weekend, I witnessed the bravest resistance I've ever seen when activists from No Justice No Pride interrupted the Capital Pride parade to protest the corporatization and pinkwashing of Capital Pride. Activists blocked the parade contingent from Wells Fargo, calling attention to its funding of private prisons and the Dakota Access Pipeline and resulting genocide of Native peoples; they stopped war profiteer Lockheed Martin for bombing queer and trans people of color (QTPOC) abroad; and they threw down right in front of the Metropolitan Police Department, chanting about racist police violence, particularly against Black trans women. There has since been much controversy about their motives and delivery, and you can find a plethora of important pieces online discussing the action. The most important ones to read, however, are the essays from QTPOC chronicling their experiences at the event. The takeaway: white supremacy runs far and deep everywhere, including in the LGBTQIA+ community, and we need to eradicate it. As these brave people have reminded us, Pride started as a riot against a police raid at Stonewall, and violently racist institutions like MPD, Wells Fargo, and Lockheed Martin has no place in a Pride parade.
Last year's Pride was much different than this one's. Pulse happened in between the Pride parade and festival, and I was signed up to do PrEP outreach and insurance counseling at the festival with my employer. I woke up to go to the festival and saw the news. Lots of media outlets didn't mention that Pulse was a queer space or that the shooting happened on Latin night. When I found that information on Twitter, I felt numb with shock. I was grateful to be doing something useful, something that would provide a service to the community. Vigils and healing circles followed. As queer and trans Latinx activists read the forty-nine's names, I white-knuckled the pew in front of me, tears streaming down my face in silence. I wondered whether I had any business feeling so traumatized. Though I work for and with the community, I am not a member. My experience of the aftermath of the Pulse massacre, then, was not the same as those of my queer friends' and colleagues. Our experiences were dramatically different, not least because mine was not accompanied by a fear for my own safety. I therefore asked myself whether it was my place to be so upset, so numb, so depressed. I've never really answered that question until now.
The answer is that it is everyone's place to be outraged and grieving. The massacre at Pulse was the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history, and the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. As humans capable of love and empathy and suffering, what happened at Pulse should traumatize us, whether or not we're part of the community targeted. The damage suffered by those in the queer community is incomparable to the rest of our suffering, to be sure. But if we all care, then we should all hurt. And we should all do something. This blog post is one of the ways in which I am trying to do something.
At many events hosted by the LGBTQIA+ community, I find myself trying hard to toe a line between showing up to support and taking up space that isn't mine. That negotiation is uncomfortable but necessary. What is also equally uncomfortable and necessary is to recognize the fluidity of sexuality that exist in spite of society's insistence on binaries. Which is why I'm here to say: I'm not one hundred percent straight. Currently and historically, I'm attracted to cis straight men, but I don't feel completely straight. I'm in a long-term straight relationship with a partner with whom I'm still madly in love, but if we were to ever break up I might be open to new things. I once foolishly said that a certain celebrity was the only woman I'd ever sleep with, though in reality there might be more. (Pro tip for straight people: it's a jerk move to say "Oh, I would NEVER sleep with (fill in the gender blank)" or "I would ONLY ever sleep with (blank)." Firstly, you make it sound like non-straight love and sex are so out there that you can't possibly imagine engaging in them. That's harmful and homophobic and rude. Secondly, no one cares.) I've taken to thinking of myself as "straight by default" or "heteroflexible" since I don't really know what to call it. According to Buzzfeed's Kinsey scale test, I'm mostly heterosexual. Though the idea of not fitting neatly into the straight box has made me anxious, I think it's more important than ever that we say fuck the box and normalize the spectrum. Don't you?
And on that note, I hope that whatever your sexuality or gender identity, something in this post resonated with you today.
I hope that you are taking care of yourself today.
I hope that you are holding your community close today.
I hope that you feel loved today, because you are. Every day.