This week has been a hell of a week for the United States, and I wanted to talk a little bit about Charleston from my perspective as a queer, disabled, nominally aboriginal, woman.
I’ve been “out” for…18 years now. That’s a long time. And it’s certainly long enough to occasionally forget that not everyone is as lucky as I have been in that regard. I came out to myself, my first girlfriend and my family within the space of three months, total baptism by fire. Once I’d figured it out, there was no keeping it in.
It wasn’t perfectly easy. My mother cried for a few days and took time to really accept that this was who I am. My brother went on to become an evangelical Christian who thought being gay was a sin. But today my family, all of it, is very accepting and I couldn’t ask for better.
But I was certainly scared at times. For the first few years every time I had to come out to someone it was a new sense of panic. I became a big proponent of queer safe places, knowing that there few places people like myself could go to and know they would be welcomed and understood and could take the filters off. No more pronoun game. No more pretending that you didn’t find a certain actress hot, no more having to worry about being who you are.
I imagine that’s the kind of place that Emanuel AME Church was for some of the folks there on the day of the shooting. I cannot begin to imagine the sense of violation the black community in Charleston, or hell, the entire United States, must feel.
Actually, that’s not true.
Here I am, 18 years later, a confident, unafraid queer woman of 37, and I still need Queer safe spaces. Those places where we can just *be*. They’re like your childhood home, in a sense. You don’t need to go back as often as you did in college, but you still need to go every once and a while to re-centre and remember where you came from.
And if someone shot 9 people in my safe space, I think it would change me, radically, forever.
So to those survivors, family and friends who have already spoken of forgiveness, I am in awe. Not sure I could do it.