What I am about to write will probably be reiterated plenty of times, but I do not believe that its repetition muddles its value. In truth, having a queer latinx voice, such as mine, engenders a conversation desperately in need of my participation.
I woke up Saturday morning to a slew of text messages from friends and family with howls of shock, pain, dismay, and concern. I did not know what to make of it at first, and even after getting briefed on the situation through social media, I still could not process the loss. Tears fell from my eyes but I did not understand why and who I was crying for. Videos of concerned mothers, perhaps—I have always had a soft spot for mothers as they invariably remind me of my own. But as the day moved on and I was allowed to further meditate on what happened, I felt a certain unease that I could not shake off. A compression in my chest would not let up and I find that I have been holding my breath far more than I inhale. I’m in a state of panic—I’m ready to lunge and attack. And it’s because I do not feel safe anymore.
Any member of the LGBTQ community has every right to feel persecuted—the attack was an affront to the tightly woven fibers that were sewn together as a result of being unwanted and othered. Yet, reading the names of those who fell that Saturday night hit me particularly hard. Most of the victims were part of the queer, Latinx community. My friends would be quick to point out my conflicted feelings of the term “Latino/a” and how problematic the term is in my opinion. But as I traced my finger along the computer screen of the names of those lost, I could no longer see what drove me to separate myself from Latinos. I could only see my community being targeted and me being directly attacked.
Orlando is on the other side of the country from where I am. The queer latinx population here is small. And most of us do not really hang out with each other. The only time we have a space dedicated to us is at a latin-themed night at a local gay establishment (which I must remind you all, had been targeted for a similar gay attack New Years Day in 2014). I remember “Latino Night” because my friends and I would reminisce times growing up with our families and how much Spanish music influenced us and our upbringing. It is this image that I think of when I think of Pulse. I imagine a space for my queer, Latinx family doing the equivalent of what I did with my chosen family. I think of them drinking, dancing, flirting, and celebrating their existence.
The picture is tainted now —
— taken away from my extended family. And now I’m left wondering where that leaves us as a community. If a space that was designed for us to revel in our queerness, our brownness, our language is wrecked, where else can we go? And the answer is nowhere. Our safe space has been ripped from us and we now stand naked, trembling. How do we assemble shattered glass when the world makes clear that even with all of its successes towards moving our cause along, we will still be killed? How can we be tasked with moving forward when the media cannot even muster an utterance to call this a hate crime against my people? What are we to do when the powers that be make it about themselves and not about us?
Therein lies where I feel powerless. That is why I cried. Because I finally faced the ugly truth that I never really did possess any power.