On June 12, Omar Mateen walked into Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL and killed 49 members of the LGBTQA community with an assault rifle. I cried off and on for about three days. As a gender non-conformant person, this is the one community that has always accepted me, that has always made me feel safe and celebrated, and the attack upon that safety and celebration took me a long time to process. The fact that the media warped the attack into a story about Muslim terrorists, instead of proclaiming it a hate crime precipitated by homophobia and predicted by Mateen’s history of domestic abuse and toxic masculinity, also didn’t help.
Being an author, I turned to my novel and worked through all the chapters involving my LGBTQA characters, building up the lives to which I have access. I made a decision to change some tentative moments into confident declarations, and I felt a little better for it.
And being a teacher, I discussed the events in a June 15th tutoring session with one of my heartbroken students, building her up again, too. It was, without a doubt, one of the most exhausting conversations I’ve ever had–comforting someone in the midst of my own mourning–but that’s what teachers do.
Then, the next week, almost out of the blue, I interviewed for, and accepted, the most wonderful job in the world–I am officially a tea specialist in training! Which essentially means that while I work retail and run tastings for a tea store, I’m also attending classes, building curriculum, and reading textbooks, with the end goal of transitioning from a part time position into a full time store manager/educator kind of role in about a year or so.
I was riding that high to the top of a hill, and just about feeling human again, when the June 23rd Brexit vote came in, demonstrating that half of the United Kingdom thought it was a good idea to remove itself from the European Union. Elliot wrote a very eloquent post about this ridiculousness, which aligns with my own feelings, if you want to take a look. But the overall point is this: the complete asses who ran this vote through–Boris and Nigel–are the Trumps of the UK. We cannot let similar hate-filled, racist, terrified rhetoric win out here in the states.
I turned again to my novel and worked through the chapters remaining on the first edit, crystallizing themes of connection, expansion, inclusion, and conservation. I worked with my characters of color, and I reconsidered the implications of Energists withdrawing from the world instead of working to change it.
I helped a student with her college essays, where she discussed the paralysis and passion of her life as a person of color, and her goals for creating a world where the next generation can live in the passion alone.
I also attended my first tea class, celebrated my one year anniversary of my move to the PNW, and finished the first edit of my novel on June 26 (more on that in a later post). I was coming up out of another valley–feeling helpful, feeling conversant.
Then, on June 28, a suicide bomb went off in Ataturk Airport in Turkey, killing 45 people. American media was, for the most part, silent.
On July 3rd, a suicide bomb killed 250 people in Baghdad. Two hundred and fifty people. I sat on the couch with Dad and celebrated his 71st birthday, basically just happy to have a father who is alive and healthy and full of hugs.
And finally on the 4th of July, Mom looked at me, the way moms do, and told me I looked more tired than usual (not a jab–I always look tired in the afternoon).
I am more tired than usual. I actually ache.
I think we all are, and we all do–all of us who think deeply and feel keenly and want the world to be a better place than it currently is. Because every time it seems like we’ve found our voices, someone does something hateful to try and silence them. Every time we start a conversation, live our lives, or reach a new point of understanding, someone lashes out and to try and shatter our safety and success. Every time we help someone, 49, or 45, or 250 others fall.
But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to be heard and to be helpful.
I have better luck with the latter–in times of distress, I look for ways to be helpful. In fact, I very rarely discuss my politics or personhood in a concerted way, because I assume that there are other people out there who can say better whatever it is I’m feeling.
This time though, the events of the month just seemed too huge for silence. Add to that the events of the year–the school shootings, the ongoing police brutality against black lives, the misogyny–and I was about to implode.
So, while I’m not saying anything new, I just want to add my voice to the chorus. I want to support the people who are out there saying things better than me, while also working in my own way to broaden minds with inclusive fantasy worlds and classroom conversation and gender non-conformant visibility.
Because we can’t pick another planet to live on. And leaving this one in the hands of people who feel they can afford to ostracize or subjugate the queer, the racialized, the poor just isn’t a viable option.