Looking back, it’s hard to believe it’s already been two months since the homophobic massacre in Orlando. Here in Pensacola, just 8 hours away, it was a tragedy that hit very close to home. As one of the more visible transgender activists in town, I was invited to close out our own candlelight vigil for the victims and survivors, and while it was one of the most heart wrenching experiences of my life, it was also one of the most beautiful in how it brought so many people together. It was a tragedy that never should have had to happen, but at the same time, I find myself wishing that we could always be so unified in our continuing battle for equality and justice as we were in the days following that terrifying wake-up call.
Much as it pains me to say, our communities haven’t exactly had the best track record for unity since last year’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality, which was a huge step, but really did nothing to solve the issues of violence, homelessness, and discrimination many of us still face. It’s upsetting, but looking back at my experiences as an activist over the past year, I can’t help but notice that while we can usually seem to all come together for anything involving the LGBTQIA as a whole, events and city hall meetings focused on the specific struggles of any one particular subset of that community, (particularly those of lesbians, people of multisexual orientations, trans people, or intersex people,) are often very lonely.
It’s not an issue unique to the trans community, but as a trans person, I naturally notice this most of all with regards to the struggles of my own demographic.
One of my primary functions locally consists of serving on the board of directors for a local nonprofit organization which serves the needs of the local trans community, not only in boots-on-the-ground activism, arguably the most visible portion of what we do, but also in the actual bulk of our work which focuses on addressing the massive issues of homelessness, discrimination in employment and access to medical care, and even in being able to simply find businesses we can patronize without fear of discrimination.
Sadly, these are far from occasional needs.
It’s very much a full time job for every member of that organization just to keep up with the needs of the trans community of Northwest Florida, which just one example of how desperately we all need the kind of cohesion our vigil represented to be present every day, for every letter of the alphabet soup, and for all of us to be there for each other whether or not we’re directly, personally impacted.
The shooting at Pulse was a tragedy of immense scale, and so I’m incredibly glad to see the whole of the community come together for it, but really, in my opinion, every year we live in a world without true equality for all LGBTQIA people is its own tragedy, even before an event like Pulse. Last year, in the United States alone, we lost at least 23 trans people, mainly black and Latina trans women, who were murdered on U.S. soil in trans-targeted hate crimes, not to mention the many more we lost worldwide. This year the count is already up to 18, not even accounting for Pulse. It’s sad, but in the trans community, violence is so regular and expected that we even have an established Transgender Day of Remembrance every November 20th, which we’ve faithfully observed every year since 1999 to honor those we lose each year to murder and suicide.
I was there last year at our memorial service, which took place in a town with such a substantial LGBTQIA population that we overflow the bounds of nearly every one of our local gay pride events, and so well known for our Memorial Day Weekend events that queer bodies boldly blanket nearly every inch of our beaches each year, and yet I don’t think I can stress how surreal and lonely it felt as we held our candles and read through a list of nearly 300 names in a darkened Unitarian Universalist Church along with must have been less than 20 people.
Just as lonely as it feels every time any portion of the LGBTQIA is left alone to fend for themselves without their siblings in the face of a society which seems bent on all of our erasure and extermination, and just as lonely as I feel wondering how small the gathering will still be the year my name seems as though it will inevitably find its way onto that list.
Division in our communities is a massive issue, people from all segments of the LGBTQIA are paying for it with their lives, and if we’re going to prevent another Pulse, or see a day where we can achieve true equality and justice, it needs to stop happening.
Orlando was such a tragedy, and the vigils and the responses have been so beautiful, but it’s just so sad to think that it could take this kind of massacre to bring our community together, and I can only hope that we’ll all do our best honor the victims by doing everything we can to stand together in until all of our struggles have come to an end.
Please, let’s all stop leaving each other alone in the dark to fight our continued battles for justice and equality alone as though that acronym was meaningless, because it’s not, and it should never feel as though it was. We may not always recognize it, but our communities all intersect, and we all suffer at the hands of institutionalized cisheteronormativity. None of us will ever be free until all of us are free.
Be Sure to Subscribe to Delia Melody on Youtube:www.youtube.com/deliamelody