Inexcusable, the slaughter in this world.
Insufficient, the merely decent man.
—At the Restaurant, Stephen Dunn
There’s a certain kind of loss that is supposed to accompany terrorism. A loss of innocence and the sort of sudden and caustic realization that you are not safe—that safety in this world is an illusion, anyone can have access to your personhood at any point. You’re supposed to think to yourself, How could this happen?
But I don’t feel loss. I feel exposed for what I have always known to be true: I can be killed. This is a country where I am not as protected because I am queer and a person of color. These facts of birth have marked me as less valuable to the machines of our society from the beginning. I have been identified early as disposable. Or perhaps not disposable because something you dispose of is something that you may have counted to begin with. I belong to a different category—something closer to a ballpoint pen that wanders away from you because you loaned it to someone and never got it back or left it in a restaurant.
I am something that you never really counted on keeping to begin with.
I’ve been thinking about how headphones now come with noise cancellation technology. They read all the noise around you and produce a wave of the same amplitude, but with an inverted phase; which is just a fancy way of saying that they make the exact opposite sound and when these two sounds meet the result is silence. I’ve been thinking about this because that’s what I watched happen. 49 different sounds met one big burst of the opposite song, and they canceled each other out.
No sound left.
My friend’s husband says to him, I don’t want to die for kissing you.
I have been watching this thing get built for years now. Watching the different men and women go on TV and talk about how I don’t matter. How I am ruining America. They will offer their prayers when I die—send their thoughts in the direction of my death—and go right back to building the things that killed me. They get louder and I get—
Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Amanda Alvear, 25 years old
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old
Kimberly Morris, 37 years old
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old
Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old
Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old
People have been saying it was terrorism, but it wasn’t terrorism, or if it was terrorism, it was committed by the men and women who have incited this violence. It was done by the men and women who refused, year after year, to take a weapon off the streets that has the sole purpose of mowing people down in the dance club, in the movie theater, in the elementary school. In another system, one where they didn’t have all the power, we’d hold them accountable. We’d put them in jail, take away their livelihood. I’ve been thinking about power and how because people who are queer and black like me don’t often get much of that, we have to ask people to protect us. On Twitter someone says I’m a n*gger, and when I ask people to report them they say, You don’t have enough followers to do anything to me.
I think to myself that at a certain point the end point of all things becomes whether or not you have power and to what end you exercise that power. All power to the people, someone yells on the street, and I wonder if power has become it’s own thing—if it has left the people. Or, if I am not a person.
I’m thinking there should be a way to demarcate this loss. A shift in time. I’m trying to joke when I say this to a friend and then say, Now we’re After Orlando. A.O.
It immediately feels true, which is probably why I burst into tears.
GLBT National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564
Trevor Project Hotline: 1-866-488-7386
Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860
New York City Anti-Violence Program Hotline (English & Spanish): 1-212-714-1141
Fenway Health LGBT Helpline (ages 25+): 1-888-340-4528
Fenway Health LBGT Helpline (ages 25 & under): 1-800-399-7337
Photo courtesy of Marc Dones.