“We’ve Learned to Call This Normal” (Repost)

I was solicited in 2016 to compose my reaction to and observations of the state vigil for the victims of the Pulse massacre for Paper Magazine outside the Stonewall Inn, featuring fascist NYPD hellmouth Bill Bratton. For whatever reason, sometime in the past few months the article was removed and my requests ascertaining why ignored. So I am reposting the piece here, unedited. Several sentiments had been cut in the initial publication, and so I’m restoring those silences and again openly wondering for what reason my work was removed from their archive.

“I am composing a litany of false starts—piece of paper, fragments, phrase, sentences formed then unholy halved, trapped in the nightclub of my mouth—fear finds its own course measure. Following the June 12th massacre in Orlando, echoes of past abuses I long thought pressurized in the deep trench of my subconscious resurfaced—razor-mawed eels in the dark. I am not alone. In each of us, these echoes resonate at different tones—images apiece carved into our senses by repeat traumas, the brutality with which we galvanize ourselves. The sandy texture of tile grout against an upper lip, cold gunmetal in my mouth, whispered sounds, snot; we all carry our own stories of violence. 

We’ve learned to call this normal.

I’ve been thinking about the fears of cis men, of “straight” men, of white men, of men who are all these things, and that they are different from my fears, although I don’t know how.

This massacre reminds me it is exhausting to avoid the triggers of hypervigilance and collapse. It is exhausting to know that our society relegates us to carrying these traumas until our bodies dissolve into dirt and ash. I’m angry. As those with political agency within our malformed nation make quick work of further normalizing violence against our communities, the perception spreads that we are pitiable, the misery of the whole world inflicted upon us. And yet, despite all of this, the love that we QTPOC hold for each other within our communities builds the closest thing in this world to utopia. It’s no secret that our cultural production, our intellectual labor and, even our grief gets mined, appropriated, perverted, and claimed by those with clout and dark agendas. 

Politicians champion us only in death, and the subsequent whitewashing is always swift and complete. Our deaths become yet another device with which the political elite polarize the American public. On one hand, right-wing media regurgitates Islamophobic rhetoric in defense of the Second Amendment. On the other, leftist media leverages our deaths against the NRA. Both distract from the fact that, while our community is distraught by the 49 lives we’ve lost, we are dying and have been dying a long time now. Queer and trans people of color have been erased at the hands of the state, whether due to inaccessible housing, insufficient health care, economic disenfranchisement, mass incarceration, or hard metals in the water. 

Tragically, it came as no surprise that upon arriving at the Stonewall Inn for the vigil on June 13, I’d witness what amounted to an elaborate exercise in white catharsis, erasure and grandstanding occurring on a stage leavened with our blood. 

“As soon as this pity party is over…” We overheard from a cop walking against foot traffic as we crossed Seventh Avenue. Someone else who also heard him burst into tears, distraught, while strangers gestured for them to keep crossing.

We stood beneath snipers on the roofs carrying the same kind of killing power that killed us in Orlando. We shuffled through an area riot-proofed with metal barricades that made mobility almost impossible. It seemed as though barricades had also been built to protect the media in attendance. And then, there were the speakers, among them: New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Nick Jonas. Please, white men, teach me to exceed what I thought my capacity for resilience. 

Why would anyone think it appropriate for Nick Jonas to take up space at a vigil commemorating dead latinx people? Nick Jonas, who gets his coin from flirting with an affable white gay audience. His presence at that vigil felt manufactured and dissonant. I was beside myself with rage as I suffered through the transparency of his careerism and white mediocrity. The queer latinx community doesn’t give two shits about Nick Jonas, and he certainly does not speak on our behalf. Neither do Cuomo, who signed into executive order that New York State would boycott doing business with those in support of the boycott of Israeli products, or police commissioner Bratton, who has our blood on his hands. These three were certainly unfit to be present at the vigil for our fallen, and their presence prodded a fresh wound. In the absence of integrity and authenticity, their words droned hollow, but I trust they will live up to the promise made of further militarizing NYC’s standing army of police. That they would use POC deaths to advocate for the increased policing of POC communities is disrespectful to the dead. And even more so to the living. 

Then, they failed at the pronunciation of the names of the newly dead. They couldn’t even say our names. 

—Slow erosion as their botched sounds grated against my inner ear. Then, they played some Coldplay.

Friday was a day of mourning in Puerto Rico. Nearly half of the victims in Pulse were Boricua—a venue frequented by my cousin. I’ve been speaking with the Boricuas within my chosen family, talking about how America doesn’t care about us. The same politicians mimicking grief over queer Latinx death are also complicit in the newest colonialist policy to install an unelected board of globally elite financiers as the overseers of the entire Puerto Rican economy, leaving Puerto Rico’s public functions powerless against private corporations. Hospitals, schools and clinics are closing. Policies are yet another manifestation of erasure. And it is the forces of erasure against which we clash.” 

~Joey De Jesus (2016 for Papermag (no more))

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: