The Whore Next Door: Pride After Orlando

I held my friend Juliette close, frozen in the middle of my bright backyard, huddled over my iPhone, as we watched the coverage of the Orlando shooting.

I will always remember where I was, too horrified to speak, when I heard the news of the 49 victims slain inside Pulse nightclub during a Latin-themed dance party last Sunday — a surreal and violent schism in the course of LGBTQ history that has forced conversations about violence, racism, and gun laws across the country.

Initially, I refused to even let my heart process it. I focused on critiquing the media coverage around it, theorizing about how the tragedy was being used as a political tool.

It wasn't until I went to a vigil on Monday night that I wept. City Hall was lit up with rainbow lights, and all the flags were at half mast. Dozens of people gathered in the darkness, huddled together with candles.

This time last year, I was in New York celebrating nationwide marriage equality at the Stonewall Inn, where almost 50 years ago the modern LGBT liberation movement began when a group of hustlers, queers, and queens fought back against a police raid of their home away from home. Gay bars have historically been important community spaces, especially in places where homosexual activity is criminalized, as it still is in large parts of the world.

Although marriage equality is most important to heteronormative-leaning queers with a certain degree of privilege, it still felt like an immense step forward. But the year that has followed has been horrific in terms of queer lives lost.

The first San Francisco Pride I attended, just after my 18th birthday, felt like a heavenly paradise of girls kissing girls without ever having to be afraid. That weekend was the first time I made out with another girl, right in the middle of the street, where anyone and everyone could see. I finally felt like I didn't have to hide, like I was safe.

But after several hate crimes and acts of violence at SF Pride events in the past few years, compounded by the heavy grief and fear washing over LGBTQ people around the globe in the wake of the Orlando massacre, this coming weekend's celebration is steeped in sorrow and hot with fear.

San Francisco's Pride celebration is the largest in the country, and we know that at least one suspect was apprehended last week on his way to a Los Angeles Pride event with an arsenal of weapons in his trunk.

Supervisor Scott Weiner, who represents the historically gay Castro, vowed that Pride activities would go on as planned, with additional security measures in place, although the FBI is reportedly concerned about the potential of a copycat crime. I don't know about you, but an increased police presence at Pride is not exactly a way to make LGBTQ people — particularly queer people of color — feel safer.

Platitudes like “love wins” fall flat, because now that the shock of Orlando has worn off, I am filled with rage. And though hate is never the answer, I hate that I'm terrified to go yo a celebration that once felt like home.

I hate that after spending half my life fighting for the rights of sexual outlaws, we are still slain in staggering numbers, year after year, and that our safety rests in the hands of the very systems that terrorize our communities. I hate that my mother is beside herself with worry this weekend knowing she has raised me to take to the streets at a time like this.

As the city once known for sexual revolution becomes more known for bro-grammers and start-up culture, my queer identity feels untethered for the first time, just as we are launched into a brave, new, post-Orlando world. But San Francisco is more than just a geographic location to me; it's a feeling.

It's what Judy Garland means when she says “over the rainbow.” It's Neverland: a magical little island surrounded by pirate ships and populated by lost boys, fairies, and mermaids.

We fight every single day just to be who we are. I, along with many of my community, refuse to back down after so many have died fighting for our rights to be who we are and love who we love.

Yes I'm scared, but pride is ours. I refuse to let anyone take that from us.

So I'll see you at Pride, y'all.

View Comments