Am I Safe? Reflections on the Pulse Massacre
Remarks from HEAL's Director of Communications and Development, Maggie Campbell, given at the June 13th vigil in Bangor, ME.
On Sunday, our country awoke to the news that something horrible had happened. We awoke to find that yet another mass shooting had occurred within our borders. We awoke to countless articles and updates detailing the attack: location, perpetrator, victims, motive, aftermath. As I reflected on what's happened, responded to calls, texts and messages of anguish, anger, and pain from my queer family in Maine and spread across this world, prepared to gather with my community in mourning, I was called to put words to a nagging feeling: straight, cisgender, white Americans awoke yesterday to a tragedy that defies description....but, unlike me and my queer siblings, they
likely awoke to a feeling of safety.
LGBTQ+ people live each day with an awareness that safety is not guaranteed. Many of us are rejected by our communities, our families, our faith leaders. Our identities are challenged, erased, and ridiculed. We walk the streets knowing the harassment, the violence, the hurt could come at any moment. Trans folks and queer people of color know this threat even more intimately than others. Let us not forget that Sunday's shooting took place on Latinix night at Pulse--a night celebrating queer people of color.
When I heard the news about the Orlando shooting, my first thought was one I'm sure echoed in the hearts and minds of my LGBTQ siblings across the globe: Am I safe? When I walk down the street holding the hand of a partner, am I safe? When I attend a Pride event in my community with friends, am I safe? When I kneel down in my place of worship, am I safe? When I order a drink at a happy hour with a co-worker, am I safe? When I go to a nightclub in hopes of dancing away my stress, freely expressing my gender, connecting with people I love: am I safe? For so many of us, the answer is no.
Last weekend, I worked a Pride event, right here in Maine, organized by my co-workers at the Health Equity Alliance and spent the better part of the day trying to negotiate with an irrational man who sat on his porch across from our children's activity area spewing homophobic and transphobic slurs for hours on end. I wish I could tell you that was the first time I endured horrifying verbal abuse on the job, but that would be untrue. When he held up a metal pipe and pointed it toward me mimicking a machine gun, I thought to myself: am I safe? And the answer was no.
As a community, we must gather to grieve and to honor those who lost their lives in this tragic massacre, all our queer and trans siblings who have lost their lives to the same hatred, violence, and intolerance that spurred this attack, the people who paved the way for us to proudly claim our LGBTQ+ identities. We must honor the founding mothers of our movement, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson: fierce, unapologetic trans women of color who taught us the meaning of bravery and protest. We must hold in our hearts every queer person who is alone tonight. Every queer person who wonders how they will face the world in the morning. Lastly, we must love one another. Our most noble goal. As we go back to work, back to school, back into the daily patterns of our lives, which for many of us, include providing services that keep our beloved queer siblings alive, we must support one another every day the way we do in the face of tragedy. We mustn't let the voices of hate turn us against other marginalized people. We must love the way only we can. We must survive.