My house looks like a hurricane hit it. There is the aftermath of a camping trip spread on the living room rug, crumbs, dirt, and dog fur coating the white faux wooden floor, and three mountains: one of dirty dishes in the sink, one of dirty laundry in the hallway, and one of clean laundry on the couch.
Our bedroom is ransacked with old mail, bills, overdue library books, and packages meant to be mailed months ago. The bed is a tangle of sheets and pillows. The fridge is semi-empty.
The kiddos' room is clean, because they're required to tidy it before they spend the weekend with their Dad.
I won't even mention the bathroom.
Normally, the state of my house is a point of pride for me, and a measuring stick for my mental health. If it's spotless, I'm overwhelmed with anxiety. If it's coordinated, but a little messy, I'm doing okay.
But when it looks like this? This is grief. This is overwhelm. This is emotional pain past the point of caring. Attending vigils, spending time with friends and members of my queer community eases the pain a little bit. My wife has the night off and asks if I want company. She's part of the community, my cohort and partner, both in love and crime. But my grief feels too heavy of a burden to share. I don't want to leave the house. I don't want to be out and proud.
A Facebook friend who is a conspiracy theorist was certain that the Orlando tragedy was a product of the government. "Nobody died," he wrote. I unfriended him and blocked him.
Another Facebook friend who lives in the Orlando area mourns the death of his friends.
Blood drives, donation pages, information disseminated, conflicts, anguish, support, tears.
In Austin, I'm lulled into a sense of insulation from the rest of the Texas, from homophobia, from transphobia, from the hate that infects more than half of our country. I was lulled into a sense of intellectual activism, having never had to contend with much outright aggression for being the way that I am. Being white, and identifying first as a lesbian, and then transitioning to male, I was and am on the side of more easily digestible and socially "acceptable" ways of being queer.
I have privilege. No one batted an eye if I kissed my girlfriend as a woman. At the worst, we were objectified and leered at. But no one threatened to kill us.
Now, as a white transgender man, I pass for a (somewhat) straight, biological male. I'm married to a person who passes for a cisgender female. To the untrained eye, we're assumed to be a straight couple, especially if my partner dresses in femme drag.
But the loss of gay Latinx lives at Pulse in Orlando yesterday morning has me reeling. I've been living with the illusion of safety. At the candlelight vigil downtown, my insides cringed in fear as protesters crashed the event and chanted about Jesus and sinners, interrupting our grieving.
Our fight for safety and equality is not over, I think.
Regardless of same-sex marriage being legalized, regardless of the transgender bathroom bill being discussed, regardless of our visibility as a community, we still have such a long way to go.
The biggest obstacle to integrating this blow to our community is not allowing the media to assign blame to another minority group for this tragedy. The systemic patriarchal homophobia is to blame. We're all to blame, for buying in to this idea of more or less acceptable ways of being different.
There is no more acceptable or less acceptable way to be different. Our differences are what make us beautiful. And if the media continues to focus on ISIS, rather than what this is really about (homophobia), then the media is not focusing on the real problem.
There will always be religious extremism. But as long as hate and homophobia remain part of our cultural norms, it doesn't matter what guise the perpetrator commits murder under. The issue is that people will discriminate against other people, regardless of their religious or spiritual leanings.
A hate crime is a hate crime. Terrorism is a loaded word, and it's serving as a distraction, regardless of Omar Mateen's individual motivations.