Leaving the violence of binarism in the ocean: A queer response to the Orlando vigil in Miami Beach

PHOTO: Sebastian Duncan Portuondo

PHOTO: Sebastian Duncan Portuondo

“If I don’t get up and go right now, I’m not gonna go,”  I said to my temporary roommate Six. It felt bizarre to be living in Miami now, so close to Orlando both in distance and family, just three hours up the road and only a couple degrees of connection between myself and some of the victims. All day, my Facebook feed was full of queens checking on queens, queers mourning and posting updates. I had to get out of the house—not to escape the reality but, at least, to be around other people who were in shock.

I threw on some dark makeup and we got on our bikes, riding seven miles across the Venetian Causeway into South Beach for the Miami Beach vigil. We rode straight to the ocean before the vigil started to baptize ourselves from sweat and sadness. I kept my head above water to protect my makeup like the lil’ femme I am, but still felt completely submerged on an emotional level. The collective sadness of my queer family was more tangible than ever and I wanted to leave it all in the ocean. I thought of every night I’ve gone out anywhere, “looking queer” or not, and wanted to hold every moment in my arms. To hold my friends in my arms. This is why we make safer spaces. This is why no safer spaces are really safe. A binary so easily built and shattered by hate.

Six and I both screamed into the waves and rode over to SoundScape Park. Across the lawn lay a giant rainbow flag. People were scattered in the grass and around the park’s architecture, conveniently designed in a way to prevent people from being able to lay down on the benches. This is the irony of a world where most LGBTQI youth are homeless.

Knowing full well the limited scope of a televised, government-coordinated event regarding LGBTQI politics,   I wanted to be grateful we could come together. That we are still here. But I felt lost in calls to faith and love. Why are we being gendered? What about our intersex family? What about our genderqueer family? What does God have to do with this? And why, after such erasure, are we constantly instructed to find peace?

The vigil continued with announcements about the governmental figures in attendance, followed by repeated requests for us to give blood. “Is it legal?” my friend yelled into the crowd. Later, US Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz took the stage and addressed the fact that it was doubly traumatizing how so many gay men in attendance could not donate blood to the trucks parked outside, even with such a necessity for donors. The crowd cheered, rightly so. It seemed most of the people in attendance were masculine-of-center. For a moment I thought about the assigned male people who do not identify as male feeling even more invisible in Schultz’ call to action. In overt tragedy we can still find ways to exclude our people.  

“Today, we are all part of the LGBT community,” Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said over the microphone. I looked around at the crowd after the fourth time this phrase was inserted into the dialogue, wondering seriously what that meant. Is he saying we all could have been victims, even if we’re straight or closeted? Or are the A’s in LGBTQIA feeling extra important today? Are we supposed to blur the lines between victims and allies just to feel supported when the queer community is already so damn small on its own? When fifty QTIPOC deaths in a city could mean a huge portion of the community, do we have to turn to our allies to find strength?

No. No, no, no. Standing in the grass, all that mattered were the queer people around me. Queer energy channeled for queers, queering politic, queering space, queering grief. I told myself to ignore the binaries offered to us over the microphone.

PHOTO: Sebastian Duncan Portuondo

PHOTO: Sebastian Duncan Portuondo

This mourning as queer people is not about God, not about gender, not about allyship, not about peace, not about politics. It is about strength, whatever form it takes. Within the realm of conventional politics we are constantly hounded to find refuge in the majority, to hide under the wing of the people with more social capital who support us, usually cisgender, straight people, often men and mostly white or practicing whiteness. Our allies are the people who have the pleasure of moving in and out of that allyship when it is convenient to them. They are the ones who tell us to assimilate into a corrupt system for our own protection. They misgender us, make fun of us, make no effort to include us, but mourn the loss of our fellow queers as if their actions aren’t similarly exclusionary. They are the ones who ignore their own casual queerphobia and transphobia because they don’t see how every act of hate or erasure, big or small, is connected.

And this meeting place between black and brown lives and LGBTQI folx, is a connection between queerness and whiteness, an intersection, not an overlap. Even us white queer folx cannot endlessly center our own grief when fifty queer/trans/intersex people of color are targeted in the largest act of gun violence in recent US history. My tears into the ocean are nothing but a drop to all the work for survival initiated by QTIPOC for QTIPOC.

Walking away from the vigil, I ran into one of my sisters in drag. We hugged, quiet, knowing again how lucky we are to have space, to claim space, to find new space as queer people, even in heartache. This month, the theme for the party is “Sea Creatures and Daddy Issues.” I laughed, imagining all my grief, left at the bottom of the ocean earlier that day. We will dance and we will dance again, and again, and again, for everyone who died in the name of claiming queer space. We have to be renewed by this collective grief, there simply is no time to stop.

So, moving forward, how do we use our own social capital to demand that spaces for queer, trans, and intersex people of color are protected? How do we reject these binaries of hate and erasure even within our “own communities” and outside of them to ensure QTIPOC voices and experiences are the mainframe for our work to dismantle heteronormative, queerphobic, white supremacist violence, even in death, especially in death?

Rainé is an agender trans person and drag princex with House of Gunt. They co-facilitate QuoLab, a queer safe(r) space in Savannah, GA.