Last summer on a bus from Pisa to Rome I read about the Pulse shooting in Orlando. I was thankful to have both seats to myself so I could lay down and pretend to sleep while I cried. Tragedies like this don’t really affect me. I get angry and disappointed and sad when these things happen and they impact how I see the world, but this is the first one ever to impact how I see my life.
I didn’t know any of the victims personally, but I knew their names. They were names I grew up with. Names my teachers would call out to take attendance. Names of my friends. Names of my family. Names so common to me it was as if I was one of them. I still can’t read those names without tearing up.
I haven’t learned how to be queer and latina at the same time. In the past two years I’ve searched a lot in terms of my identity. I left my country and found a fresh start to be openly queer, without owing anyone explanations. There was no need to come out, this was just people meeting me for the first time. The full me. But in cultivating my queerness I forgot to tend to my latinidad. My queerness became gringx and borinken wept inside me.
Pulse left me an aftermath. It forced me to reconcile two aspects of my identity that often find themselves at odds. It made me see the overlaps and learn how they feed into each other and overflow onto my life. It made me want to take more action, even if it’s small steps, as Vice-President of my university’s LGBTQ student org. It has made me merge these parts of my identity in everything I work on, from my creative writing to my choice in internships.
One of the things that made me the angriest about this tragedy was how white washed it was portrayed by the media. Consistently media outlets failed to recognize that the majority of the victims were latinx. They don’t want cultures that they see so rooted in gender roles break them. They don’t want their fantasies of macho men and hyper sexual and feminine women destroyed. They don’t want us to invade their spaces when they’ve done nothing but destroy ours.
I should have written this piece months ago. But looking ahead at a 2017 where bigots have run amok trying to destroy practically every aspect of my identity, it felt like the right time. I don’t know what this year will bring for me as a queer woman of color living in West Virginia. What I do know is that I am ready to chew up and spit out anyone who dares to lessen me.