Yesterday was my birthday. Thirty-eight. I spent the weekend at a beautiful women’s festival focused on magic, and herbalism, and ritual… and then emerged to hear the news. The terrible, terrible news.
My birthday will forever be tarnished with this travesty. It will become an anniversary that we mourn the death of many young people, yet another mass shooting that could have been avoided, of the all beautiful souls lost to our world because of who they chose to love.
Today I’m on a media binge. I can’t stop. I think it's because I desperately want to be able to do something, and it's hard to know what to do. The same thing happened after Sandy Hook, and San Bernardino, and oh-so-long-ago-not-long-enough Isla Vista, which seared in my heart and spirit for months. The shooter had targeted women, a sorority, made youtube videos and wrote manifestos expressing some of the most misogynistic things I’ve read in the modern era.
Yesterday, the target of the violence was my beloved LGBTQ community. It is the same hate, a festering wound in our culture, the racist-sexist-colonial-homophobic system that we live and breathe within, imperfectly and beautifully trying to do better. While violence against queer folk is linked to violence against women, children, people of color, it is also undeniably unique and whole-unto-itself, dotted with bodies in nightclubs, back alleys, hotel beds, and gas chambers.
We don’t talk enough about violence and tragedy in the personal-development world, and I think we should. We should talk about how beyond personal transformation is cultural transformation, and beyond our personal goals and patterns is the deep rift in our culture that leads to senseless death, rape, starvation and genocide. That these things are related, and that when we ignore the devastation and injustice that is so present in our world, we can become complicit through our silence and inaction. We should talk about the lost art of mourning, personally and collectively. We should talk about how connecting with love is not just about having a more meaningful and joyful life, but also about creating a world where all people can love who they love and love themselves deeply while doing it, safely, without fear.
In between my bouts of social-media binging, I keep replaying in my mind a moment from a Lyft ride I took home last week from my writing group. The driver, who was probably about the same age as Omar Mateen, told me he was celebrating Ramadan, and asked me if I knew anything about it.
“Um, I know it involves fasting,” I replied. I have a Master’s Degree in Spirituality, and that was the best I could do. Which is unequivocally horrid and embarrassing, a reflection of my privilege and ignorance, the same ignorance that is the root of violence.
He told me that Ramadan is a thirty-day long period of prayer, connected to the cycles of the moon. A time of introspection and community service. A time dedicated to all that is the holy.
This weekend, this beautiful holiday was marred with a tragedy unworthy of it. Unworthy of the pride and dedication of millions of generous, deeply ethical and committed Muslims, in the US and beyond.
I have so many other thoughts, and prayers, but as a white person with heterosexual-appearing-privilege (I don’t identify as heterosexual, but realize that I have the privilege nonetheless), it feels appropriate for me to take a step back and give space to others.
Here are some wise words that I have found helpful, and inspiring, yesterday and today...
- These words, from my friend Nicole Pepper at Green Witch Herbal Apothecary:
So many hard feelings. So many broken hearts. My heart, so worn, so heavy, still beating. I am thankful that I got to spend yesterday with so many beautiful queers, so many brave people who will not be told what to do or who to love.
My heart is with the people who were killed in cold blood in Orlando. By heart is with their families. My grief is strong and real. My tears and all the tears help make a bridge that carry them to the other side.
For me, this isn't about guns (not a big fan) or Isis, it is about a culture of hate. It is about the place we live, the place we call home breeding a culture where men, usually men, hate so much that they will kill. These were boys once, children. A culture Where people are so afraid and everyday they become more isolated. May this bring us closer together and stronger than ever.
For me, This isn't about Muslims or gun control, this is about grief and sorrow and real people, beautiful Latinos who lost their precious lives. It's about people who are afraid to hold hands in public. I see you. I love you. Great big healing hugs to all the queers, to all the weirdos, to the poc. My prayers sent out on waves of fire and love. My heart growing larger as it cracks open even more. I have space for you.
I love you, edge walkers, brave queers, queers who hide (I'm sorry), gender heroes, queer poc, queens, dykes, femmes, gender queers, fairies, butches, fighters, weirdos, freaks, and healers. I see you, I love you. May we not grieve alone.
May the beautiful dead and the queer ancestors meet those who died yesterday with grace, warmth, and open arms. May their crossings be sweet like honey. May their families and close communities be held with courage, love, and protection. Love, love, love, love, love, love, and love. We are not alone.
My heart burns with rage, sorrow, love, and grief. My heart stands with all the other queers hearts. Solidarity. Transformation. Bravery. Protection. Beauty. Courage.
- This one is a little hard, but it's power is in it's challenge to us: Unholy Words, Unholy Acts
- And also, An Open Letter to Straight People on the Pulse Massacre:
This mass shooting was not an isolated event, or remnants of antiquated homophobia, or just religious extremism. It stemmed from the very real homophobic culture that exists in our country — the culture many of us contribute to whether we’d like to admit it or not. If you are a person who believes ‘ tolerance' is enough, you are contributing to the problem.
- A Gofundme campagin for the victims of the Pulse Massacre
- A Petition to Ban Assault Rifles in the United States
- And last but not least, a quote from the glorious and eloquent Audre Lorde that another friend shared with me:
"...when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid.
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive."
~ Audre Lorde, "A Litany for Survival"
Alright, it turns out that I do have one more thing to say: whoever you are, if you are crying, if you’re in pain, or denial, or numb, find someone you love and connect. Talk about this tragedy with your children, your in-laws, your circle sisters, the folks at your yoga studio and the cafe. Let's engage in real, difficult, meaningful conversations. Let's start the collective transformation that our world so deeply needs, and with humble hearts, connect to whatever and whoever we find holy so that we can move forward together.
With love, magic, and solidarity,