I was still five months from being out when it happened, but I remember it very clearly. When the Pulse shooting occurred, the over all talk was about mental health, gun regulation, and in some circles, “Islamic terrorism”, but never about “hey y’all, this was a serious fucking hate crime against an entire population.”
I wasn’t following nearly as many queer blogs at the time since, to be honest, it was still something I was wrestling with myself, but it also hit hard because it was said the gunman himself was potentially struggling with homosexuality. Now, this is problematic because whenever this was said, I didn’t once see anything backed up with “and here’s why this toxic culture we live in is so damaging.” It goes back to the old “gay villain” trope and to go even further the “deadly, crazed tranny” trope. You may be able to say “oh, he was wrestling with his own sexuality so he went berserk” but unless you make the effort to say how wrong that is or the underlying reasons why he felt the need to kill 50 people, you’re feeding the stereotype. If I mentioned that I was struggling with my own identity to certain circles at the time, they’d be afraid that I’d snap. Shit, even now in some circles people are afraid of me just because I’m different. That’s the society we live in.
How does that happen though? Well, pop culture certainly doesn’t help. I’ve had to explain to several people after coming out how Silence of the Lambs is problematic. Once I explain it, most people are receptive and they’re able to learn from it, but at least one person was still left baffled. That same person I went on to say how Ace Venture: Pet Detective was also problematic and he pushed it aside because it was a crap movie. Yeah, a crap movie that a lot of people saw, and a lot of people saw Einhorn, a trans woman, as some crazed freak. Is it a crap movie? Sure, but that still registers to people because lets face it, we’re mostly dumb. I mean, I get it, if you’re not in the community you’re going to be less likely to see these things, but that in itself is a problem because that makes homophobia and transphobia a common thing. Even now, I just heard of a woman who got a posse of people together to beat up a poor girl for being gay. This is one thing, but she was also bragging about it and that’s the signs of a crazy person who is the victim of a society that has told her her entire life that sicking a group of people on someone for being who they are is something worth bragging about. You know what that’s called? A fucking lynch mob. That poor girl got lynched for being gay. The fact that that also came from a woman of color adds a plethora of layers.
So here we are, one year later from the worst shooting in this country’s recent history, and what are the headlines I see?
This is just a cursory google search, but I’m not seeing anything on continuing any conversations on the nature of it, how and why it happened, and if anything is being done about it. I went on to not read any of these because the headlines are just reminders to say “hey, this thing happened” and not “this tragic thing happened and here’s the problems with this society that caused it. ”
11 trans people, all of color, have been murdered so far this year. I’ve followed every single one of these and I haven’t seen any updates other than “here’s this person, now they’re dead”. Every time a murder happens, there are plenty of articles on the outrage these have caused and how people want the news to cover these more, then there’s silence until the next one, usually within two weeks. This begs the question, if much less than 50 people were murdered, let’s say 10 or even 20, would the news have even covered it? The majority of the victims of the shooting were queer people of color. Where’s the coverage on that? They were real fucking quick to say the shooter was muslim, but that’s it. What does that tell me, a queer woman, specifically trans, still not even a year into being out? What does that say to me? It says they don’t care about me or anyone I love. It says to stay in the house and bolt the doors because “these things happen”. In this culture, being trans has been linked with tragedy. It’s been linked with mental illness. It’s been linked with the hardest life someone could “choose”.
Being queer in general has been linked with tragedy, it’s been linked with luring innocent young boys and girls into the cabal and tricking them into becoming one of us. Shit, even something as harmless as the movie Hook isn’t safe from this. When Peter’s son is “turned” by Hook, everyone gasps in horror that he’s wearing a smaller version of Hook’s entire costume. By the way, it’s confirmed that Dustin Hoffman and Bob Hoskins played the characters gay as hell. Let’s not even get into the “dead lesbian” or “bring out your gays” tropes. God forbid someone comes out as queer on TV or in Hollywood, that’s just painting a fucking target on them. That’s what the pulse gunman saw, targets, and it was this society that made it that way.
Pride is a time of remembering where we came from. It originated from it being illegal for us to gather in public. It came from a bitter fight led by trans women of color and people tired of how things were. Nearly 50 years later, we’re still fighting to exist. We’re still living in fear. Society as a whole has become a bit more accepting but the people in power are guardians of the old ways. They’re the ones that sign the laws and they’re the ones killing us the most. Will another “Pulse” happen? It’s tough to say. The better question is when will we be able to just live and be ourselves no matter where we go? When will Hollywood and television stop resorting to old tropes that hurt and demean us? When will society take a long, hard look at itself and see the terrible fucking monster it is? I don’t know, but in the mean time, I’m going to live my life for those who can’t any more.