After news of the horrific mass shooting, specifically targeting the LGBTQ community in Orlando, we have held our breath and not exhaled since. We wait in unspeakable sadness, fear, helplessness. We grieve in our own ways as we piece together new bits of information.
Many of us sit with clenched hearts, because we know all too well the acts of terror and hate that are committed daily. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer folks, especially people of colour, and anyone outside of the 'norm', are harassed in countless ways, even in the most 'progressive' countries, cities, neighbourhoods.
We know it could've been us. In many ways, it has been us.
We know this all too well. But we are tired. We are bone-dry and sick of defending our existence.
We remember why the first Pride march happened at Stonewall in 1969 -- a statement that people should no longer have to hide in shame or be arrested because of who they love, a revolutionary act of defiance against a system of oppression that punishes those who do not conform.
So much progress has happened, but here we still are.
People are clamouring to point out that it was an act of terrorism, but many ignore the fact that the target was a QUEER club. While the motive may never be clear, we know that the victims were part of the LGBTQ community. We cannot omit this because it makes us uncomfortable.
We can point one finger at one person, or we can reflect on a culture that rewards politicians who are homophobic, religious leaders who are applauded for 'taking a stand' for hate-filled values, laws that protect those in power, violence that is encouraged, individuals who remain silent when their fellow humans are barred from basic rights.
We pray for change. But this is not a day for thoughts and prayers alone. It is a day of deep mourning, a time for tangible action, for honest self-reflection on what every single one of us are doing to be part of a solution.
We must ask ourselves:
What are our faith communities promoting? How do our politics and politicians give voice to the oppressed? How do our own hidden beliefs contribute to people being in danger? What are we willing to say and do to make sure that the systems that promote hate are broken down, once and for all? For ALL.
We must crack open the lie that we are not all equal. Sure, put a rainbow flag as your profile picture, but DO MORE.
Send your love, donations, support to Orlando. Reach out to your loved ones, let your LGBTQ friends know you care. Seek help if you need it, and let your tears flow when they come. You are not alone.
Fear will not win. Hatred does not hold the final word. We are shaken, but we will not be broken.
May our love not just sit in silent prayers, but be in action to protect and honour those who need it most.
*Image credit to Revel and Riot