Let's talk about some ugly words: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer. Then, let's discuss why the recent Orlando shooting cuts so deeply for various reasons...
Gender identity – one's innermost concept of self as male or female or both or neither – and sexual orientation – a person's sexual identity in relation to the gender to which they are attracted; the fact of being heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual - are among humanity's most basic instincts, resonating with each of us. Studies have even been able to prove that children show signs of gender dysphoria – the feeling of having been born in the wrong body, also called transgender or transsexual – from the age of 3! Critical note: Transgender isn't a child who acts like the other gender (boyish girl, girlish boy); it's a child that feels very uncomfortable with their assigned sex and feels like they are another gender.
Now, throw yourself back to that very confusing time of your life. Your body starts doing all sorts of weird stuff, you're navigating social interactions; it's just awkward and weird, and then the pimples start, plus(!) you have to navigate the school's social system, get good grades when all you really wanna do is get kissed by someone cute, and then parents just don't seem to understand and keep throwing demands at you during your time of struggle– *gasps for breath* It is fuckin' exhausting!! No wonder we slept for hours upon hours into the day!
Well now add an extra layer onto it, where you seem to be spilling all over the lines of the strictly hetero-mould. You like someone of the same gender; you like both genders; your body doesn't look on the outside the way you feel inside... Shit! That's scary stuff! You should talk to someone about it – wait, nope – NO ONE WANTS TO TALK ABOUT IT! Or you do, and, cue the gossip about you being a freak and the slow social death.
So puberty + extra weird emotions + society at large telling you who you should be and how you should feel, which you don't; added to that, your parents are not supportive of this, your religion is anti-this so you know for sure you're going to hell, you feel VERY alone, with acne, and hormones, and you need to get that A on that Physics test. The people you identify with are either celebrated or destroyed by the media, you don't get to think about much else because you spend so much energy on pretending that nothing is wrong, that you are 'normal', that you feel as comfortable in your body as everyone else seems to be.
Some people are blessed with a close friend or family member they can talk to, someone who notices something's up and is willing to be okay with it, even if just for your sake. They get a little more support – the fear is still there on some level, but they have somebody. Its still hard because society at large still doesn't understand, but fuck it, if you dwell on it you'll go cray-cray.
Anyway, puberty passes, you get into some rhythm of getting by on a daily basis. Everyone else starts falling in love, dating, thinking about college or going to work, while you're still coming to terms with the fact that you're (quite possibly) an ugly word: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer... But hey, you're ok with it, kind of... not really, because if someone finds out oh man, you're in shit! You may get a girlfriend, a boyfriend, or you may just stay very much alone with your straight A's, great job, or something, or nothing, but by now you are a great fucking actor!
Either way, you go to your first LGBT party. And oh MY GOD!!! There are more people like me, and here they are, just enjoying every bit of the moment that they get to be themselves! You dance together, you drink together, and they welcome you without pause! You get adopted, you get a God Mother, God Father, Drag Mother, Lesbian bestie, Hag, and FINALLY you feel normal, and safe. The music and dancing become your expressions. It feels safer than your bedroom. Don't get me wrong, you love your family and everything they do for you, but this – this is like having silk sheets, it just feels perfect. Screw what the rest of the world sees when they look into these bars/parties/places where all of the ugly words get to be beautiful together!
Experiences then differ, people find the strength to 'come out'; some later than others; some, never. You find a lover, you discover sex, bond with friends who become your true family. Everybody has a different story! And for a few hours when you go to the village to dance, or drink, or cruise for an orgasm like any heterosexual human being would – you feel normal and at ease with yourself!
Then some son of a rhinoceros invades your safe place. It kills and brings the ugly to your backdoor. And in the days to follow, society at large may say they are sorry, but you're still a fucking ugly word that they don't really talk about like they do with the other sad news. And now all of your safe spaces are dangerous and make you uncomfortable because you never know when someone else and their hate may invade again. And you realise you're still ugly – still an ugly word, still feared and hated. But now you and the community have to figure out how to feel safe again.
While every other attack on life is tragic, unless you are or have been an ugly word, you really don't understand the panic that floods in when occurrences like this rock your world. Utter fear and displacement is what we feel as a community! Prayers and faux support won't bring back the lives of the people who died and it truly does not comfort us because there are even more hateful attacks waiting to happen to us again out there; these people still walk around, armed, angry, and unchecked. So until as one planet we stop treating people's gender and sexuality as something to be judged for, we, the ugly words, will never find an honestly safe space, or feel the sincerity of your condolences.
No matter how 'out' we are, how brave we are, we see ourselves in every one of those lost lights. And now we must press on, with another layer of fear added. Fear of people finding the hiding places of the truths we don't want to talk about; our communal homes. We are robbed of those lovely souls, and robbed of any sanctuary.