by Alex Lange
When I am in pain, I find writing as a solace. As a cathartic process. So today, I write. I write to find the strength to keep going. To keep protecting hopefulness. Don’t expect coherence right now. How can there be coherence for something so incoherent, so maddening, so heartbreaking?
This hit too close to home. And a complicated, interconnected home. Orlando is where both my blood and non-blood family call home. Queer nightclubs and bars have continued to be home for me and my communities, a place where we can unapologetically be ourselves. A place where we, especially my QTPOC kin, have organized, have liberated one another, have celebrated. Today, our home, the safe place where we go to not be questioned, was defiled and disgraced and made to feel so unsafe.
I am thinking and feeling and hurting. I am thinking about those fifty people, my siblings, who were out to celebrate and express themselves as they wanted, especially on Latin night at Pulse. I am hurting at the thought that those fifty will be identified, family members will be notified, and that for some or many or all or none, their families will learn more about them this way. I am feeling so many things at once: at a loss for the right words, feeling empty, feeling like the day will never come where I get to take a break from being vigilant.
The current love rhetoric has failed us. Love continues to not win, y’all. I am continuously told to love myself. I am told that love will win. I am told that love always wins.
Loving myself is hard in a world that continues to feed me messages that I am unlovable, that my kin are undesirable and disgusting. That we do not deserve to live. Love is not winning where we are seeing larger waves of physical and administrative violence since #LoveWon last June.
I truly believe in the love that Grace Lee Boggs, Cornel West, bell hooks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and others have discussed as the means to change our world. Love cannot be limited to statuses that are about thoughts and prayers. Those cannot be the only way we express love. Love is also purposeful (in)action.
Love is saying to someone, “yo, that shit your saying isn’t cool” or “have you thought about what you said just now.” Love is going to pee with someone so they don’t fear for their safety while they relieve themselves. Love is looking at our Muslim siblings and saying I love you, especially our queer Muslim kin. Love is going to a poll, calling a politician or twenty. Love is holding someone close, getting over the shit of feeling vulnerable, and just telling them they matter to you and that you give such a hard damn about their existence in your life. Love is taking care of each other, bringing each other water, and saying please drink it cause we need you here. Love is unpugging and saying no, today I am not gonna engage because I need to do that for me. Love is not combating hate with more hate, combating harmful ideologies with more harmful ideologies. Love is bell hooks + Hal David + Burt Bacharach: a mix of care, recognition, affection, respect, commitment, trust, and honest communication “no, not just for some, oh, but just for everyone.” Love is saying “hey interconnected systems of rhetoric and violence, you are shit and you are not welcome here” and doing something to unwelcome that shit. Love is saying “we live in a world where this is possible, continues to happen, is not unthinkable, and continues to happen to different numbers and kinds of people every damn day” and then saying “I’m gonna actively challenge my complicity in that shit if I wasn’t before.” Love is a call, a text, a note saying I love you and I am glad we exist together. Love is finding each other, surviving together, and supporting one another.
Love is complex and I am truly hopeful that love is the answer. I just don’t think it’s the way I/we have been doing it.
There are days where I protect hopefulness like an iron wall. Today, though, my hopefulness feels like tissue paper. That’s where I am at.