Orlando: This Is how It Lands in Me.
In a sense, it’s been a privilege not being hyper-vigilant all the time. It’s a privilege a lot of queer folks across the world don’t enjoy. I didn’t grow up with it. Not feeling safe under a conservative evangelical roof in a rural backwater town was standard.
When I was a teenager, just starting to question, there was a horrific crime committed in my hometown where two brothers broke into the house of a gay couple and murdered them while they slept in their bed. I believed then that it would never be safe for me to be out. As a teenager, I expected to be targeted and ridiculed if anyone knew I was questioning, bisexual, lesbian, queer, genderqueer, masculine-of-center, non-normative or different.
And feeling mostly safe is no longer a privilege I enjoy.
Tonight, while driving home from work, there was a loud crack from a firework exploding in the air just off the freeway. I flinched and ducked down, looking wildly towards the noise. For a few seconds, I fully believed it was a gunshot. When I realized it was just a firework, I began to cry.
This is how it lands in me.
I am afraid to go to vigils because a large group of queer people gathered in one place feels like wearing a target on your back. Of course, simply existing and being visibly queer is also living with a target on your back. Right now, I am wondering how much I should erase of my identity online in case someone decides to research me or the places I frequent like the shooter researched Pulse.
When we go to gay bars, we will stand near the exits and think about how we would get out if we had to run.
I think a lot of straight folks don’t understand that there are about two degrees of separation between any given LGBTQ+ person in this country and those who were there that night. Our community is small. We know each other. And we go to the same safe places when we are in a new city.
On that Sunday, my girlfriend and I decided to go be with family in WeHo instead of just crying in front of the TV, watching as ever more horrific news reports unraveled. I requested an Uber, and the name of the driver that popped up was something like Amar. I instantly experienced a small whisper of fear, immediately followed by intense shame over that unfair, uninvited, unreasonable fear.
I am still functioning. I drive my car. I go to work. I line up my kids. I talk to coworkers. I eat… whatever. I do what I have to do. But the collective cultural trauma just keeps on coming. It’s like a heavy metal box full of mercury that’s been put in my lap. I have to now, somehow, figure out how to get rid of it, without the box tipping over and poisoning me.
This is how it lands in me.
Ish Green lives in Los Angeles, CA with one girlfriend and two cats. They love to write, dream and watch old movies. Ish also work at The Trevor Project, the only national suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth.