What are the views of the members of the LGBT community regarding the Orlando nightclub shooting? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
Every single day, I get up in the morning and I start reading over comments on my Quora content, checking my messages and looking at news that impacts specifically the transgender community but the broader LGBT community as well. And every single day, I dedicate some time to writing on Quora about some of those issues. Words are powerful and I try, every day, to craft the best words I can to help people understand who we are and the issues we face because I believe to the very core of my being that knowledge is the only thing that will stop the hate, the fear, and the violence.
Since two Sundays ago I've been looking for the words, the powerful words that can give context or meaning to what happened. Words that can help people understand. Words that might help stem the tide of hate and fear and violence that leads to nights like this.
The problem is, I don't have words that are powerful enough to wrap around what happened that Sunday. There are words like tragedy and horrific that have been used so many times in the past to refer to shooting events like this that the words that should be powerful symbols for deep emotions are instead reduced to the expected ornaments on an event that feels, to many people, as familiar as the Christmas tree in the living room. I feel like the powerful words have been used up and so I don't know how to express the depth of loss and sorrow and fear that I feel after Orlando.
So here are the only words I have that can come close to expressing what Orlando feels like: Alecia, Erica, Laura, Tess, Tamara, Katie, Elliot, Ara, Emily, Lexa, Claire, Alexandra, Sophia, Stephanie, Cyndi, Lydia, Ward, Joe, Michelle...
See, in queer spaces, you frequently hear us talking about families of choice. For many of us, coming out comes with a cost of losing the families to whom we're related by blood and so we form close family bonds with other LGBT folk and close allies. The people on that list have been my brothers and sisters, close confidants, wise aunts, and so many more things. Those people are my family of choice.
So when I think about Orlando, I think about what it would be like to lose those people. I think about the hole in my life that would leave. I think about how it would feel, in one night, for so many of the people I care so much about to have been taken from us.
For people who aren't LGBT, it can be hard to understand the close bonds we have as a community and why this loss hits all of us so very hard. It can be hard to understand how many of us have a personal experience of surviving violence and why the feeling that it could have been me is so profound. The vulnerability we feel at having one of the few safe spaces we retreat from a hostile world to violated ... it can be hard to understand if you've never had to seek out a place to relax where you didn't feel like just being yourself would make you a target for violence.
I've looked for the powerful words and I keep finding them lacking because the only words that are powerful enough to express how much Orlando hurts are names. Because it's that personal. Because it cuts that deep.
I want, so very badly, to say what we should do about it ... what actions we should take so we don't have to face this pain again, but I can't. Those words, whatever they might be, are hollow echoes of things that have already been said by many.
So I leave you with the only words I have left that I feel will do anything to stop the fear, the hatred, and the violence: Never stop reaching out, never stop learning about people who are different from yourself, never stop forming the bonds of family with people who aren't related to you by an accident of birth. Never stop loving whoever it is you love, never surrender to the fear, never let yourself be deceived by the lies and the stereotypes. Never accept that this is just the way things are. Never accept that hatred and bigotry are "valid opinions" and never, never feel like you can't do anything to stop another Orlando from happening because even if I have no powerful words to offer; you are powerful and your words matter. Your words matter and your actions, large and small, make a difference that is real.
Never ever be afraid to make that difference.