Mourning and Resistance as a Queer Survivor

I spent the better part of last week struggling to process the effect that the Brock Allen Turner case had been having on me personally and professionally.  There is something unique about working professionally in the anti-sexual violence field as the rest of the nation is having a conversation about sexual violence.  On the one hand, I feel like I am supposed to be thankful that so many people are thinking, some for the first time, about their role in perpetuating rape culture and gender-based violence; on the other hand, it’s utterly exhausting to be unrelentingly bordered by sexual violence.  After more than a decade of doing this work, I have bared witness to so many moments where our national dialogue has shifted to talking about how we are complicit in creating a society that consistently finds ways to deny women the dignity of believing them; yet, when that story dies down, and it inevitably will, we will still be working against a tsunami to prevent sexual violence.

I closed my computer on Friday determined to use the weekend to come out on the other side of my looming sorrow and depression.  And then 49 people LGBTQ people of color were murdered at a gay bar in Orlando early Sunday morning.  Like so many people in the queer community, I have been teetering precariously between a deep, profound sadness and a blinding rage as I struggle to make sense of yet another mass shooting in this country.  In a world that works to make us invisible and erase us, queer people are all too aware of the precarity of life and the importance of places like gay clubs, which is one of the few sanctuaries available to us.  For queer and trans people of color, who have experienced generations of racism, colonialism and state violence, that may be their singular haven.

As a queer survivor, I’m having a hard time finding space to breathe.  I feel like I’ve been holding my breath for the last two weeks.  I have bitten my cheek so hard and so often that there now exists a bit of hardened flesh to remind me of my pain even in moments of respite, and all the while I have done my best to veil my pain from the eyes of people so ready to consume it.  As a queer person and as a survivor of sexual assault, I am asked to use my pain to love harder, be more visible, and stiffen my upper lip but I don’t have the energy or desire to pretend that queer folks loving ourselves is going to make us any safer, and I certainly can’t pretend that it is going to diminish the amount of systemic and state violence that LGBTQ people of color face daily.

My daughter, my wife, and I recently spent Norwalk Pride creating a space for queer survivors of sexual violence and, although I didn’t fully know it at the time, it was a day that made me feel more purposeful and proud than I had in a long time.  I am so thankful to be raising daughters who spend Pride creating visibility for survivors not only because my girls are a part of vibrant, loving community, but because they will understand that beauty cannot be erased by violence.  I wrestle with myself (and my wife at times) as I weigh my responsibilities as a parent to protect my children from harm and the realities of living in a world replete with violence; yet, ultimately, as a m(other), I want to raise my daughters to be able to see the world both as magical and full of possibilities and as a complicated, unfair place that they are responsible for helping to make better.  Right now, that is the only place that I can find hope and, for today, it will have to be enough.

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