To everyone who struggles to understand tragedy, in much the same ways I do:
I can find no other way to begin or frame this letter than with an apology. I am so sorry. I am sorry for every condolence I must extend to each victim, their families, and their loved ones surrounding the massacre in Orlando this week. I am sorry for the lives some will not live out to their full extent. I am sorry that all I can do in this moment is write these words, and not seek greater action on their behalf. I am sorry that my writing takes on a life of its own in these moments of anger and rage, and that I refuse to allow these emotions to govern my responses to tragedy. Even more, I am sorry that this letter is necessary.
I am sorry that the world has sold us an idea that we can be anyone we want without repercussion; that we can become anyone without needing to pay a price for it. Worse, I am so sorry that this cannot be how our world works in this moment. There is a strange hypocrisy that follows me into movie theaters, where we see queer and gay characters play a part that we are then told we cannot become, while others can follow me into these same theaters with firearms and make their own choices about what characters can be continued. It follows me into the bathroom, where government legislators seem concerned with our safety only when it suits their self-interests instead of ours. It follows me into shopping malls, where we walk down aisles that display T-shirts and purses and wall plaques that ask us to be ourselves, stay true to ourselves, love ourselves. Yet we live in a world that does not let us do this when it does not approve of who we love, whether it be ourselves or the others we choose to hold close to ourselves. We tell children that they can become anything they want, until we no longer like who they want to become. I am so, so sorry to all of the children that witnessed the atrocity in Orlando, and now believe that they cannot be themselves. I pray for them, as I pray for the victims and their families, that one day we can all exist as we are without the need of others editing us.
I am sorry that we watch beautiful men, women, and people grow up and choose to entwine themselves in the LGBTQIA+ community, then field a barrage of questions asking why. Until 1983, actions like those in Pulse Nightclub, Stonewall Inn, Cooper’s Donuts, and Compton’s Cafeteria — violent and vicious attacks against those under the spectrum—were not classified as hate crimes. It took until 1984 for any state to criminalize these actions beyond the vague rhetoric of federal statutes. The first laws criminalizing attacks based on the victims’ gender identities took until 1994 to exist. Yet we are the ones asking for too much by wanting to be viewed as human beings who breathe and want the same as everyone else. I am sorry that someone else could ask me to speak more quietly about these issues, when we are still trying to attain legitimacy and validation in the face of constant persecution.
While I may be speaking only from my own experiences, people often choose to entwine themselves in the LGBTQIA+ community for protection. To know that when tragedy strikes and homophobia and prejudice pervade my life, I will not be alone in fighting against it. That I can use whatever label I wish, or lackthereof, as a shield against someone else’s ignorance that can so often turn deadly. I am so sorry that this war is much more than a metaphorical one. That people have, and apparently will continue, to lay down their lives for this fight. That I could have been one of them, had I been in just one different place, one different time. I am sorry that there are still people who pride themselves on convincing us that this war is not real. That we must mourn and yet still convince them of our fallen siblings. That we must struggle to not fall ourselves.
I am sorry for every bullet, pill, or strand of rope that has ended someone’s fight for equality. I am sorry for every grave and every obituary that has marked its conclusion. I wish I could make the stone and ink unneeded. I wish I could break each barrel of every gun, flush every pill, and burn the rope that makes anyone think that the fight is over. I am sorry it is not.
More than all of this, I am sorry for those that think this is some sick kind of ending. As if one more attack thrown into a long history of persecution and erasure will kill a movement that is growing every single day. I am sorry that a human being thought that he had the ability to stop us. There is no conclusion to this war we fight without a happy ending’s rainbow; more vibrant than any pride flag, more real than each of our identities, and more alive than any of us could ever be alone. We are all still fighting, each and every day. We fight for ourselves, for our loved ones, and the ones we choose to love with all of ourselves. We will never stop fighting for you all.
I have always sworn to use my role as an advocate and activist in order to speak out for those with no voices to do so themselves. Unfortunately, those that laid their lives down for equality — against their wills — in Orlando have joined the ranks of those I want to protect and defend during my lifetime. I swear to you, in this letter, that I will always try to do so. I am sorry that my writing takes on a life of its own in these moments of anger and rage. I will never apologize for how I use it. Rest in peace and rest easy. I will never stop fighting for you all.
On behalf of myself and my fellow staff members at VocaLady Magazine, I extend my deepest condolences to all of those affected by the tragedy in Orlando, Florida. Our words can never begin to describe the pain and hurt you will be experiencing for the foreseeable future. I am sorry for your losses and your trauma.
UPDATE: This letter is in memoriam of every single person who lost their life this week in Orlando. This letter is for Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34; Stanley Almodovar III, 23; Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20; Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22; Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36; Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22; Luis S. Vielma, 22; Kimberly Morris, 37; Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30; Darryl Roman Burt II, 29; Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32; Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21; Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25; Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35; Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50; Amanda Alvear, 25; Martin Benitez Torres, 33; Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37; Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26; Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35; Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25; Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31; Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26; Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25; Miguel Angel Honorato, 30; Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40; Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 ; Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19; Cory James Connell, 21; Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37; Luis Daniel Conde, 39; Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33; and Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25. Rest in peace and rest easy. I will never stop fighting for you all.
Photo credit: Cover.