I’ve been laying low. On Twitter, on Facebook, here. It’s the news, or rather the way the news has gone viral. Two stories in a row that were all anyone could talk about for a week, a rape and a massacre. [probably obvious content note: rape and mass shooting.]
I don’t really want to talk about either of them. But I do want to talk about the way those conversations have looked.
The Stanford rape case didn’t get attention because rape is rare, but we act like it did. Can you believe anyone would do something like that? I stopped counting the people who asked that, when they insisted on talking about it. Don’t I understand that this is important? That we have to talk about it? I wanted to say, Yes, I can believe it. I’ve been raped. I promise, I can imagine it really well. Please stop asking me to imagine it. But I didn’t. I didn’t want to tell my own history every colleague and acquaintance who just had to talk about this rape case. I wonder how many people they tried to have this conversation with. How many women. Whether they know one in five of us has been raped. I know they don’t understand this is a common thing, can’t have really internalized the statistic, because it hasn’t occurred to them that the person they are cornering might have been raped, might not want to talk about it.
Then there was the self-righteousness, the shock, the outrage in social media. Everyone had a post. “Look, I agree with everyone that rape–or at least this rape–is horrible; I am a good person.” You might say I’m being overly cynical. They’re saying it because they do think rape is horrible, right? It’s vocal support, solidarity.
One of the “this is unbelievable and terrible” posts that came across my feed was written by a man who raped me. Not with any acknowledgement that he’s capable of the same, let alone that he’s done it. I wonder if he remembers. I wonder if he justifies it to himself. Maybe thinks okay, I’ve crossed a line or two, but not like this guy, he’s a monster. I didn’t say anything. I wonder how many other women saw their rapist, their attempted rapist, their long-term abusive partner getting congratulated for making the definitely-not-congratulation-worthy assertion that rape is bad. I wonder how many didn’t say anything. I haven’t seen this conversation make women safer. I was just waiting for it to fade away so things could get back to normal.
And then a man shot more than a hundred people in a gay club.
I tried to write about it. Not because I wanted to, because I had to. Rage and grief and fear were building, turning septic, I needed to say something to get it out. I hesitated before hitting publish, over and over again. Anything I could say–any grief, any rage, any fear– felt like offering up another bite of queer pain for straight consumption. I was acutely aware of the media aspect of social media, and feeling none of the social.
I posted a link on Facebook, how to talk to a queer person who is afraid of dying. Said it’s important for straight people to reach out to queer friends and family right now, show us you care, please. Straight friends and family shared the link, liked the link, “Look, I agree with everyone that massacre is horrible; I am a good person.” Not one of them reached out to me, or to my sister (she’s a lesbian. She used to go to Pulse frequently. It’s a shock and a relief that none of her friends were there that night.) All these not-queer people who’ve never been to Pulse making its logo their profile picture, not one willing to text three words (“are you okay?” “Thinking of you.” “I love you.” “I support you.” Anything.) I talk to other queer people. Also full of fear, and grief, and increasingly as days pass, rage.
I watched superficial support twist. Straight people started to say this wasn’t an attack on LGBT people, LGBT Latinx people especially; it was an attack on all Americans. I heard–many of us heard–“we will only support you if it is about us as much as you.” I watched the conversation slide away from homophobia and violent men with guns, which is where it belongs. Watched straight people make it about Islam and mental illness and speculate about internalized homophobia, and anything, anything, as long as straight American men don’t have to acknowledge their part and participation in this culture, in this violence. They’ll only talk about helping a marginalized community if the blame can be laid on another marginalized community. In my own communities, I hear straight kinky people claiming solidarity, saying they understand and feel our oppression and they support us–no, they are us. And that’s a whole nother post but no, and fuck you, and no. Kink does not make you queer.
I watched my government push for gun control (not well, not the right gun control, but something). I watched them do nothing. Straight people decided queer lives mean less than the rights of violent men to guns. They’ve decided the same of black lives, women’s lives, small children’s lives. I’m not surprised. But I hate them, for leaving queer people at the mercy of straight legislation.
The furor died down. Soon “the tragedy in Orlando” meant a two year old at Disney, not over a hundred queer people at Pulse. It’s been weeks. We’re supposed to get over it. Don’t grieve. Don’t think how easily it could be us, next time. Even though it could.