Safe Spaces and Being With Those Who Mourn

Safe Spaces and Being With Those Who Mourn June 14, 2016

lgbtq vigilby Travis Terrell Harris

On June 12, 2016, at 2am Sunday morning, Omar Mateen walked into Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida and started shooting. When he finished 50 people were dead and 53 injured. Here at R3, we are collecting some reflections of this horrific massacre. If you would like to share, please email us at rhetoricraceandreligion@gmail.com. You can also follow us on Twitter at @examinereligion and Facebook

My heart is broken. Being at the vigil was the first time I fully grieved the 103 lives that were killed and injured. What hit me the most was when all of the names of those who got killed was read. It kept going, and going and going and going. I broke down and cried. So many lives are being impacted. The vigil showed me how many of our LGBTQI people were affected by the killings. On top of the friends and family members of those who died. Stories were shared that revealed and reminded me that ‪#‎Pulse‬ is only the tip of the iceberg of what our LGBTQI people are dealing with. The concerns of coming out to their families, the concern of how they are treating because they are out, the possibilities ranging from hate speech, to rape to being murdered. This is their normal reality. But I also learned about resilience and this tenacity to BE in the face of such oppression. They are determined to not live in fear. 

Also. I was made aware of my privilege as a married man with a family. As a result, I can relate to Whites who are trying to learn about non-Whites, so I share this post in that perspective. I do not know how it is to be queer. So when I attended tonight, I just cried along with my brothers and sisters. I shared in their pain. I did not speak up and I did not offer advice. I just listened and wept. I had and have tons of questions, but through following Facebook posts and reading articles, I am learning a lot. I am also grateful that I was allowed into such a sacred and intimate space. I share with the hopes of offering an example for my White brothers and sisters who are wondering how can they learn more about the Black struggle. The onus is on me to do the research for my queer family and not, at this time while the wounds are still fresh, bombard them with questions. Just to love them.

After the vigil, I had more conversations with my LGBQTI fam and found out about these “conversion camps.” I heard stories of parents disowning their children who came out, or they did not take care of them to meet their needs. What!!! I can’t even find the right words to say that express the outrage. With this new understanding, I feel powerless. I want to do everything I can to help my LGBQTI family but feel unable to do so. I will say this, that you have a safe space with me. The thing that bothers me the most, similar to problems that many Black folks face, a lot of queer people are suffering silently. Because if they come out, they will have to deal with the backlash I already explained. What was encouraging about tonight was that there are communities of people for them to find solidarity.

Travis Terrell Harris is a PhD student in American Studies at William and Mary College. Travis’ research examines the intersection of race, religion and Hip Hop. He recognizes his scholarly work as life work with the goal of addressing institutional racism and empowering the “least of these” to thrive.

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