One year ago yesterday, a gunman snatched away the lives of 49 dancing souls at a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL. This tragedy became known as the Pulse Massacre, the largest mass shooting (that was not a military operation) in American history.

As a few queer people of color pointed out amidst the predictable rush to deracialize the incident, the shooting took place during the club’s Latino night, with Black and Latina transgender women as the headliners.

Amid the “progress” boasted by largely white, cis gay men in the aftermath of the SCOTUS ruling for marriage equality, this brutal incident highlighted the particular vulnerability that Black and Latinx queer people continue to experience. Regardless of motivations behind the killings, for many the attack was yet another reminder that even the safe spaces we valiantly carve out for ourselves––despite the queerantagonism of the world and racism of the white queer community––are still never fully protected.

This vulnerable existence of queer people of color, and particularly Black queer folks, has persisted in the year since the massacre. So far in 2017, there have been seventeen reported murders of trans people in the United States, all of whom have been women of color (and most likely many more have not been reported, or have been misreported using incorrect genders).

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict that if current rates continue, one in two Black gay and bisexual men will be infected with HIV in their lifetime. This is largely because, now that the disease is “under control” in communities of white men, fighting it is no longer a priority for mainstream health organizations. For Black and Brown queer folks, it is clear that the historical conditions that led to uprisings like Stonewall remain deeply entrenched, and celebrating our pride today should not come at the expense of continuing to fight for our lives.

Go to a Gay Pride event this June, and, true as it may be, this isn’t the story that many queer organizers and organizations want you to hear. On Thursday, No Justice No Pride organized a protest of D.C.’s Capital Pride parade exposing “the continuing divisions within DC’s LGBTQ2S community.” The group wanted the parade’s organizers to remove organizations that profit off the destruction of Black and Brown queer communities, including the Metropolitan Police and corporations invested in war and pipelines poisoning Indigenous water supplies such as Wells Fargo and Lockheed Martin.

According to No Justice No Pride, many white people attending the parade, some presumably queer, threw bottles at protesters, yelled at them to “go home,” saying that “this {pride} is not for them”––despite the group being queer-led itself––and encouraged the police to arrest and commit other acts of violence against the demonstrators.

Meanwhile, as Philadelphia unveiled the addition of Black and Brown stripes to its Pride flag in a largely symbolic show of support for queer people of color, once again white queer people let Black and Brown queer folks know that “this {pride} is not for them.” When Out Magazine covered the unveiling, the predictable storm of white tears poured in, with comments like “why not add a white stripe as well”? and “The rainbow flag has nothing to do with race” garnering the majority of likes under the post of Facebook.

As the responses to No Justice No Pride in D.C. and the unveiling of added Black and Brown stripes to the rainbow flag in Philly demonstrate, rather than acknowledge the urgent realities facing Black and Brown queer communities, many white gay folks would prefer to be absorbed into the very society that maintains and enforces those oppressive experiences.

These responses support the need for exclusive spaces for Black and Brown queer people, where we can strategize and heal from the violence of non-queer people and white queer people. Acknowledging this necessity is not what creates division, it is simply paying attention to a fracture that is already there––the fracture of white supremacy that is not content with just being broken itself, but that also wishes to continue to break the bodies and spirits of Black queer and trans individuals as well.

Cases like those of Bayna El-Amin––a Black queer man who is serving nine years in prison for defending himself against a white gay man after a smear campaign mislabeled the incident a hate crime, and the judge agreed that the drunk gay white man who hit first was a victim because he was seen as a “girly (man)” (prosecutor’s words)––show us the danger of not paying particular attention to this division within the queer community.

The fact is: because white supremacy relies on oppression, “progress” under it is designed to leave some of us behind––usually us Black and Brown queer people––for the sake of the rest.

To be clear, Black and Brown queer folks are not defined by our trauma alone. We have not taken the violence facing us lying down. We have started movements, led resistances, and protected one another when no one else would. The way we rallied around and supported the survivors of the Pulse massacre was a conglomeration of remarkable feats. Even more remarkable are stories like those of Pulse survivor Keinon Carter, who went from being declared dead at the hospital to opening a center for black LGBTQ youth.

Many of us have done this remarkable work despite the persistent violence we face. And some of us are still waiting for our white queer “allies” to reach back out to us after we have lifted them up, consistently on the frontlines of issues that affect all of our communities.

But what would happen if we refocused our attention away from those who would rather reach toward the structures that harm the least of us? What if we used our energy to build and reinforce  our own strengths, instead of trying to mend a divide the other party has no interest in fixing? What if we––Black and Brown queer, trans, and gender non-confirming people––are enough? Even if we refuse to cater to allies? If we have learned anything in the past year, it should be that those who care for us will find a way to show it, without us breaking our backs for them. There are far too many of us breaking already.

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)