Everyday I cry over Orlando. It doesn’t take much. A message of hope. Friends expressing their pain. Homophobic comments from religious friends and family. Anti-homophobic comments from religious friends and family.
I was looking forward to getting out and painting with my regular group. My face must have given away some of my grief. Our lovely host asked why I looked so sad.
“Orlando.” And I tried to smile and was about to ask about a paint brand someone was trying out.
“You don’t need to be so sad about something that happened so far away.” A painter said.
“You act like you knew someone there” she added. I can’t tell if she is trying to be sympathetic or accusatory.
“They are my people.” I replied.
“We are all your people” she scolded me, with a hurt tone in her voice.
I wanted to say, “No! You are not my people! I see our shared humanity but you are not of my tribe. I’ve heard you talk before. I respect your humanity, but how can you be my people when you want so many of my people to cease to exist?”
I said instead, “I have Latinx family.” I didn’t add, “I am queer.”
“You know it was staged.” The woman continued. “Trump was going to reveal something to the world that would bring those corrupt Clinton’s down. They knew that. They staged this. People get so sad about things like this and then they are easier to control.”
I stared at her. Did she believe Trump was so incompetent that he was unable to deliver anything but insults and racist fear mongering towards vulnerable populations after a tragedy? Apparently this secret world changing information took backseat to insults after people GOT SAD?
She went on, “Its because They want to control the people. Now They will use this as an excuse to make gun laws.”
I exploded, “Don’t you think that the fact that after Australia enacted gun regulation laws they haven’t had a mass shooting, or since Scotland enacted gun regulations laws, they haven’t had a mass shooting, has anything to do with why people would support gun regulation laws!!! Isn’t preventing mass shootings a good enough reason? Not to mention toddlers who…”
She cut me off. “No. I don’t believe it. Its all about control of the people. Take away their guns so they can’t protect themselves.”
“Protect themselves from whom? Obviously not mass murderers” I failed to keep the sarcasm from my voice.
“The government” she replied with sickly sweet condescension.
“You believe the government is going to attack citizens with guns?”
“Yes, dear. That’s what Orlando was.”
I decided to try a different tactic to explain my sad face.
“It isn’t just the homophobic violence. It also hurts to see homophobic responses from the Christians that…”
Another woman interrupted me. “Christians aren’t homophobic!”
“Many Christians aren’t. Many Muslims aren’t. There are still far too much homophobia in Christianity. Same with Muslims. Some good things and some bad things in both communities.”
This offended them. Minimizing the deep pain of the queer and Latinx community, and of everyone who is concerned about the depth of the gun violence is supposed to make me cheer up, but comparing them, white Christian women, to Muslims has gone too far.
Before the first woman could say anything, the second woman spoke up “I can’t be homophobic because I am not 100% straight.”
“Internalized homophobia is a thing” I muttered. I hoped they wouldn’t hear me.
They heard me but haven’t heard of internalized homophobia. I gave examples of internalized misogyny, or rather, they did, and I pointed out that women aren’t actually worse drivers. I gave an example of internalized racism caused by white supremacy. Our model, an artist from Northern India, broke her pose to nod. She knows how insidious white supremacy is. I immediately regretted the example.
The first woman interrupted to give a monologue about how she is less racist than her black friend and how she just wasn’t raised with racism and can’t imagine why anyone would think it’s a problem. I sputtered and tried to make some comment about racism in the culture but I could no longer make coherent sentences.
I was done. I retreated into my painting and marveled at the greens and reds living on the model’s face.
Time passed. I don’t know what they talked about, something about how China has a conspiracy to give us fake food. I fell into a world of colours, lines, and shadows.
Break time. The model got up.
The first woman spoke again. “I hope I didn’t offend anyone! I always offend someone.” Her tone was both proud and plaintive. She felt like she was the victim for standing up for “truth”. She demanded validation for her pain of not being praised.
The other women were quick to give it. To reassure that she has not offended them, that they are just like her and always offending people too. The model and I were silent.
I wanted to say, “You’ve done more than offend. You’ve erased a tragedy and mocked the experiences of people whose lives are at risk every day. You accused the murder victims and their families of being actors trying to deceive us.” But I stayed silent.
She looked right at me. “Don’t be so sad about something that happened so far away and wasn’t even real.”
I looked at her wearily. “Does that help you sleep at night?” and I walked out.