We’re angry, we’re scared, we’re miserable, but most of all, just angry. So angry at the loss of life, so angry at all the useless handwringing and moralizing, the prayers, the whitewashing, the erasure, the politicking, all of it. Angry. Angry that it happened; angry that it happened again. Angry that it will happen again. Be it an attack against the queer and trans community, be it an attack against the Latinx community, be it an attack against anyone by someone with an assault weapon, it happened. It will happen again.
And out of that anger, people speak. I’ve seen people railing against those who will not speak of the Orlando victims as being queer and trans. I’ve seen people angry that they’re only talked about as being gay “as if they’re not real people like anyone else.” I’ve seen people angry that people are not speaking about them as Latinx. I’ve read those angry that they’re talked about in terms of their backgrounds and not as if they’re “real” Americans, that they have to be disowned. I’ve seen native activists angry that people are calling this the worst mass shooting when they know that was Wounded Knee. Equally I’ve seen queer native activists angry that anyone is derailing the conversation about this tragedy.
And, consistently, I’ve seen people angry at who is speaking and who is not speaking and…the subjects of that anger are the same. As much as I’ve seen many raging against white allies for speaking out, I’ve seen those furious that white allies are not speaking up. The suggestions are that speaking is trying to pull focus, not speaking demonstrates a lack of support.
We ask people to honour victims and be precise about who they are and how they identify, and to not force other labels on them…but there are times when we do not know which identity was targeted. We do not want to erase the identities of any. We do not want to assign identities they did not assume. However well-aimed or however misdirected the hate that killed them, we do not want them to be erased by the actions of the man with the guns.
And I’ve seen the same fury at the cis het community: both for speaking and for not speaking. I’ve seen many furious that people are not contacting them asking them if they, personally, are okay with the news, as they are a member of one of the identity groups targeted in this massacre. I’ve seen some of those same people rage against others trying to make the tragedy about them and not about the people actually involved.
We ask allies to speak up all the time…and then we tell them to be silent when they do. We tell them that we are people just like they are and that they should stop separating us out, then we castigate them when they include us in the group.
Anger and grief are powerful emotions. They are not born from cool calculation and rationalization; they are visceral responses which often cannot be controlled. If this is the first time you and yours have dealt with such grief, then why would anyone know what is the ‘right’ way to deal with it, the ‘appropriate’ way? No one does. There is no right way. There is no appropriate way. There should never be an appropriate way to deal with such a horrific tragedy: it should never be something for which we have rules of proper behaviour.
It would be nice to live in a world where others know what we need and are there to provide it…but if that has never been your relationship with others then why would they know now what they have not known in the past? Be angry, but be aware that your anger is so great, so immense, so overwhelming and tinged with so much fear and sadness that you are looking for other places to spread it. Be aware that our anger is from a sense of helplessness, a knowledge that we are constrained from taking steps to stop such a tragedy again in a world where too many argue as to the actual reasons and cause. And be aware that our anger is as much from feeling bereft, needing comfort from others as much as it is understanding that some of the people we seek comfort from belong to the very identity groups we fear.
We are angry. Do not let it go. Let it burn. Let it fill you. Let it flow through you so you know the pain and the anger and the grief. Remember it so that you will continue to fight so that you will not need to feel it again.