Fighting Battles to Love, Fighting Battles to Live

When people find out I’m gay, a sentiment I often hear rushed back at me with barely a breath taken is that it doesn’t matter. And I know they mean this as a kindness, but it’s just not. It should matter to you because it matters to me and this world and how I live and breathe. There’s been so much talk about love since Sunday and while I’m a hopeless romantic it’s not as simple as “love is love.” It’s not as simple as tolerance. It’s not even as simple as acceptance. Queer and trans people and especially queer and trans people of colour have not been fighting battles to love – they’ve been fighting to live.

Forty-nine people are dead and 53 are injured.  I’ve been reading about the people who died. So many were students. So many were young. They were parents, they were children, they were partners. One couple was planning a wedding — their families are now planning a joint funeral.

Forty-nine people are dead.

Pulse, the club it happened at, was having a Latinx night.  A night for not just LGBTQ2+ people on the margins but those pushed even further because of the racist world we live in. Yes it happened in Florida. Maybe it’s a bit different here. But not that different. Orlando happened because of a longstanding culture of homophobia, because of racism and colonization.  This might feel shocking for some of you, but for a lot of us it isn’t.

When you base your views of our community only on something as beautiful as love you have failed to understand that for most people it’s just about being able to live.

I’ve lived in Kitchener-Waterloo for about 13 years now and while I came here to attend the University of Waterloo, I’m not really a numbers person. I tend to think in poetry, the language of love that can make hard things so palatable. But it’s been numbers that have been floating through my head since Sunday.

Forty-nine dead. Fifty-three injured.

Eighteen days since our national opposition party, and the same party that governed for eight years, stopped condemning gay marriage.

Seven years since Waterloo Region was named the hate crime capital of the country.

It’s been 10 days since volunteers in this community pulled off a pride festival that almost didn’t happen.  Thirty days since more volunteers pulled off the queer and trans film festival I love dearly — another event that almost didn’t happen.

The thing is we’re not just fighting to love — we’re fighting to find ways to connect and tell our stories and to live.

It’s lives that we have lost and why we are here.

There are so many numbers — but the ones that won’t go away are the local ones and ones that tell how short our history is – how fresh the wounds are.

It’s been 15 years since I’ve been in high school and had never heard of a gay-straight alliance, 16 years since we got a local queer and trans film festival and were finally able to see a wide array of our stories on screen in KW. And it’s been 46 years since Stonewall, when queer people, led by trans women of colour, rioted in New York because there was no physical space that was safe to be queer.

I will never have enough thank yous for the Stonewall folks, but the saddest part is that in Florida and in our own communities there are still not safe spaces, especially for queer people of colour and trans people.

Twenty years ago we didn’t have tri pride. And if I had been a Waterloo student 46 years ago we wouldn’t have had GLOW.

Forty-nine dead. Fifty three injured.

Because you are polite and probably kind you say to me it doesn’t matter that I am gay. That love is love. But the opposite of hate isn’t love all the time — sometimes it’s just life. Love can’t and didn’t and won’t save the lives of 49 people who were massacred, and it won’t prevent future violence. And the opposite of hate isn’t indifference.  The opposite of hate isn’t saying we’re all just people.

Give us life. Don’t just show up now that we’re sad — show up when we’re happy. Show up by funding LGBTQ2+ and person of colour spaces, arts, programming, and physical health initiatives, pride events. Give us staff instead of volunteers. Stop making us fight. Stop telling us our love is OK when you are making it so hard to live.

Forty-nine people died and my love for them and their friends and communities and families is so deep. But I wish I could give them and the local LGBTQ2 community that is currently struggling… I wish I could give them so much more than love. I wish I could give them life.