My Pride Is Bulletproof: A Queer Puerto Rican on Life After Orlando
It could have been me. I could have had my body riddled with bullets, my blood spilled, clothes drenched, crawling for my life on the dance floor of a gay bar.
I had just returned from a Brooklyn gay bar, my queer friends and I dancing with drag queens to celebrate Brooklyn Pride, when I opened Twitter and saw that another shooting was taking place. As I sat on my bed refreshing my timeline trying to find facts it quickly became clear the victims of America’s latest mass violence were Latinx – a gender neutral term for the Latino community – queer individuals.
Forty-nine black and brown queer and allied bodies slain under disco lights by a gunman wielding an assault rifle. Bodies that were once grinding to the sounds of Reggaeton now laid across the dance floor like a mass grave. I stayed awake as long as my tired eyes could handle, reading updates. Waking up Sunday morning I prayed the tweets I saw just a few hours before were from a nightmare. Instead, I found it was not a bad dream but a real life horror as the names and faces of the victims were released.
There are layers to the violence enacted early Sunday morning at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. As many have expressed, nightclubs are places of sanctuaries for individuals who have historically not been accepted by society. Gay nightclubs are a place for celebration of the freaks, the femmes, the faggots. Not because of the hedonism that some people assume these clubs are havens for, but because at gay nightclubs, no one has to hide. It’s the one place you can be exactly who you would be every other day of the week, if not for the threat of violence, bullying, or retribution. Exclusively queer places are some of the only spaces where my community is feels welcomed, without the caveats the outside world requires of them.
This was an act of terror meant to keep LGBT people in the shadows. Since Saturday night’s shooting, there have been half a dozen reports of other threats of violence. A man in Brooklyn, just blocks from where I live, was arrested for making threats of violence outside of a gay bar. Individuals in San Diego, Atlanta, Los Angeles have also been investigated for similar threats.
The act of violence in Orlando was carried out against a community already suffering from disproportionate rates of murders, suicides and violence. We won the battle of marriage equality only to see our trans siblings lose their fight to be able to use the bathroom without being attacked. For weeks, headlines have been dominated with politicians vilifying trans citizens simply wanting the right to peacefully pee. This massacre happened in a gay nightclub – one of the few places where no one in my community has to fear being assaulted in the bathroom.
Even worse, it wasn’t just an assault on LGBT people, it was a mass murder of queer Latinx individuals, a community marginalized both for their skin color and nationalities, as well as who they love.