On Being Proud // Remembering Pulse Nightclub, Two Years Later

Matias Rengel

Matias Rengel

This piece originally appeared in Boshemia Magazine: Issue 01 in June 2017., when Alex Nolan wrote a response to the Pulse nightclub massacre. We share his words again the week of the two year anniversary of the tragedy.

They’re never going to stop killing us, are they?

Thin, strangled words that crawled out of my throat when I read news of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Trembling spread outward from the core, as I drew my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around my legs.

Social media is filled with messages of support, of prayer and love. Alongside that, there are voices from the LGBT+ community, and we are furious and we are terrified. There are so many of us crying out in response to the horror of this massacre. I am afraid, because of the stark, frostbitten realisation that I will never be truly safe as a gay man. My friends, and my partner may one day be killed because of who they are. It is ignorant to suggest that this is not an attack on the LGBT+ community. We have always existed, and there have always been those who wish to murder us for doing so. I, like many others, am tired of self-censoring to make cis-sexual heterosexuals feel comfortable.

I have been asked why we need Pride events, or why we need nightclubs, groups and sports teams that are only ours (as I imagine others have been). They are bravery and defiance. The individuals gathered in that nightclub sought the warmth of their community, and instead met death. We need each other, and we need somewhere to be together and revel in who we are. We need days where we can drape ourselves in rainbow colours and be resplendent and happy among the company of people who understand. We are told over and over to simply accept that there will be people who hate us for being us. We need shelter from that. Prejudice is a sack full of rocks that we are forced to carry around for all our lives, without being told why. When we come together, we can put the sacks in a pile by the door and forget about them for a while. Perhaps we’ll find others to share the weight.

That is why we are so angry, so sad and very afraid. A safe-space has been violated. The LGBT+ community is reeling because we have been attacked, and the bubble has burst. In this day and age, the law allows us to love and marry freely in many places – that has become a comfort and felt like protection. In my opinion, it is no longer enough. We need real protection. Our safe-spaces need to stay safe. I cannot reiterate this enough: we are murdered for existing. We may be closer to equality than ever before, but it is still happening. We’re fucking tired of it.

To all of the injured and fighting, to families and friends of the victims and anyone present that night, my heartfelt sympathy goes out to you. I can’t begin to imagine the devastation you must feel. This year when I stand under rainbow banners at Pride, I will stand in solidarity with those lost, and with you.

One Year On

A year later from one of the worst atrocities our community has faced, I am no less afraid. Gay men in Chechnya have been forced into concentration camps. They are still killing us. The barest minimum of politicians have spoken out. The cis-heterosexual population would rather we had no space to be, or they outright deny our existence. I want to be loud and scream my pride from a rooftop, but I am frightened. I have retreated into my community for the protection of my own, as many others have. We have closed ranks – they do not want to see us, so we shall simply be with each other. I have been able to celebrate in the beauty of my identity, and the beauty of those who are not cis-heterosexuals with an immediate friendship group of mostly LGBT+ people. We are wonderfully unique and will continue to take the space we deserve. But I have also come to be more aware of the privilege I have. As a white cisgendered male, I am near-enough to being an ‘acceptable’ representation of our community. I am not. I have learned when to lower my voice, so that others can be heard – we are all human and real, a breathing part of this world. I will not be your accessory, nor a mouthpiece for heteronormativity in our wonderfully diverse community. We must make them listen, and I must know when to speak, or not. Our unity is often all we have, in a world that would rather see us die.

You can read more essays on Pride in Boshemia Magazine.