Every single member of the LGBTQ+ community has had to take a good, hard look at death this week. We have had to revisit the fact that people not only want to kill us, but that they do kill us, and they are killing us, whether it’s a self-hating American man with an assault rifle, or it’s the toxic words and glances we experience EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Just for being who we are.
A lot of us have felt guilty and selfish for being devastated the past few days. Some of us pass for straight. Some of us are white and cisgender. Some of us come from very loving and accepting families and communities. I am lucky enough to be able to claim all of these privileges. I am not from Orlando and I wasn’t at Pulse early Sunday morning. I didn’t have to hide in a bathroom stall. I wasn’t shot with a weapon of war. I didn’t bleed to death on the floor for being who I am. But every single person in the LGBTQ+ community woke up to that news and imagined what it would be like if they had been there, or had been at their own safe haven, slaughtered for who they are, and it felt all too real. Because the fact of the matter is, it has always been all too real, and it continues to be all too real.
I know it’s hard for a lot of you to imagine what it’s like to be in our shoes. What it’s like to have to fight a battle as soon as you wake up in the morning until you go to sleep at night. Sometimes the battle is small. Sometimes it just requires us to pretend we didn’t hear an under-the-breath slur. Sometimes we just have to pretend we didn’t see you staring. Other times the battle is too big for us to win. In those cases, we are so emotionally or physically injured that we can’t go on. In those cases, we die. Just because we are us. Just because we have chosen to live.
I know that it’s asking a lot for you to imagine this kind of reality when it is likely so foreign to you. And it’s not to say you don’t have your own burdens. Life is hard whether you’re gay or straight, and that is a fact. But EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. we enter into a mandatory battle. This is the consequence we face for simply choosing to live. But even then, it’s not enough. We are still killed. Just for making the choice to be ourselves.
We have accepted the harsh reality that living honestly and openly and lovingly comes at an immense price. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is. And part of the problem is your complacency. Your silence. So many of you are allies, and you should be commended for that. You are brave to take on our risk simply by being our friends. But it’s not enough. We are still dying, just for choosing to live.
Many of you offered your condolences to our community, and we thank you for it. We thank you for your compassion and your support. But many of you have resumed business as usual, and a lot of us don’t know how to do that. A lot of us are still staring into the eyes of death and wondering how to pick ourselves up to continue this obligatory fight. So I am going to ask you to do something that is very hard. I am going to ask you to join us in a battle we never wanted. I am going to ask you to help us EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. To speak up when you hear those under-the-breath slurs or you see those stares, to remind us that you see us and that we matter, to ask us questions if you have them, and just to help us go on.
Because if you stay complacent, you are killing us. And we just want to live.