This is a difficult post to write. So many thoughts have been running through my mind as I first punch down words on my keyboard. The last week since the tragic occurrence in Orlando has filled me with despair, sadness as well as volumes of guilt.
The portraits of the victims; all smiling, knowable people, the video footage, the imagery and accounts have all had a profound effect on us all no matter where we live. We are all your brothers and sisters. Pain and suffering has gripped us all. I’m sure I’m not the only one to say that we all have been thinking about you.
I was sitting by a pool in an idyllic tropical paradise when I found out what happened, initially via a friend who lives in Orlando who was letting everyone know on social media that he was alright, which made me slightly worried as no details had hit social media yet. This was followed closely by my sister who informed me of what had happened. My heart sank. My eyes welled up. My sister, my boyfriend and I, all three of us being LGBTIQ, looked at each other with shock.
Day by day, more information and more details were gleaned. Social media became absolutely saturated with posts about what happened, rainbow flags popped up everywhere like flowers in a show of solidarity. It became almost too much to take in and process. All of us reined in with posts, thoughts, condolences and information. Many of us changed our profile pictures in support, or re-posted articles. Vigils were held in Orlando as well as cities and locations further afield. A sense of unity grew yet for the saddest and most dire of reasons. Some 49 innocent people died. They died being themselves, being in what was meant to be a safe place. A place that many of our forebears had to fight and suffer and sometimes died to build and protect. These people died enjoying and celebrating their lives, their worlds and their ability to love and be loved and to show this to the whole world. I still look at images of those who died. I feel like I know these people. I think we all have. I’ve met them for coffees, had them over for dinner, met them out dancing and had cheeky romantic interludes with them. They are every one of us everywhere.
Being somewhere like Bali, which is such a haven for decadence, drunken and heinous behaviour and frivolity, I came to feel quite guilty. Guilt at enjoying my time there, guilt when going to a Gay bar, having a drink, meeting new people and yes maybe going on stage to dance with a go go dancer. How could I be there having fun when something so singularly terrible occurred? I still feel this acute pain and sentiment day by day since. How do any one of us feel safe in what is meant to be our own proscribed safe spaces? Should we be feeling this collective sense of guilt? Or is the answer to get into the bars and clubs as well as out on streets and show the wider community that we exist? This is the reason we need our spaces, more now so than ever. Here in Sydney, LGBTIQ spaces are on the decline. I blame our dependency on apps like Scruff and Grindr, which have taken out the middle man of the gay club and bar scene. Sex can be had in our own homes without having to head to a bar or sauna. But that’s another post.
Like my sister and my boyfriend, we were in Bali for a purpose, which was to celebrate my close cousin’s wedding where my sister and I were honoured to be a part of the bridal party. It was difficult for us both, as we were both there in this exotic locale celebrating an event to which we both can’t have for ourselves, and not to mention an event half way across the world which shook us both.
What really upset me was the lack of any response or condolences or a reaction at all from non LGBTIQ people, both in my family or further out. Only a couple close former work friends took time out to send me a message to talk about what had happened. To which warmed my heart. 49 people died viscously. I mentioned in passing to a family member that I was feeling a bit down because of what happened, yet sadly, this person wasn’t even aware. A blank face stared back at me. I guess we all live in our own microcosms of communities online through our online platforms like Facebook and Twitter, which is a great thing as we always will have our finger on the pulse, yet also negative as we run the danger of narrowing our scope. What is important to one person may not be to another. Like in this case. As obviously majority of my friends on Facebook are Gay or Lesbian, much news I consume is very LGBTIQ-centric.
Today, the United States Congress in the worst possible way has insulted this entire tragedy and those who died as well as their families by voting down measures that could ensure this does not happen again. This tragedy has been politicised, the issue at hand morphed and distorted. It has been taken out of our hands as a community. The fact remains that people have died. What is to become of their legacy? It pains and scares me to think of possible future occurrences that could be prevented so simply and with a finality.
The perpetrator of this massacre has become known to be a very broken and hurt person. A person who in hindsight appeared not able to live with his sexuality and who appears to have wrangled and fought with the clash of his ideological beliefs in contrast with his sexuality. I actually pity this man. A man so torn and disrupted, who has now abruptly and savagely ended the lives of so many people. I wonder what he was thinking, what experiences he went through for him to do this.
I hope that the families of those who died can find some solace somehow and someway in the future.
I also hope we can all continue to look out and support each other. I hope we can all continue to be ourselves in public without fear of persecution, and I hope we can give love to all who need it.