I was lying in a hospital bed at 5 AM when I passed MSNBC on the television and immediately saw the evolving story of the Orlando massacre. Finding out it was at an LGBTQ bar was something that hit very close to home for me. I’ve had trouble processing all of this, because I was desperate we had moved past this scale of violence. Even knowing that trans people, especially womyn, and especially those who are black/people of color, are killed regularly, and having my own fear of the wrong person discovering I am trans, I still thought we were beyond this level of hatred. Nearly 50 murdered. Over 50 fighting for their lives?! I wanted to believe we had come farther than we had from when I was first coming out. I was desperate to believe that.

Outdoors, at what looks to be a pride celebration,  hands are raised in the air, some holding onto small rainbow flags, -which are billowing in the breeze. In the background is a large transgender flag waving with a building behind it.

In the 90s, when I was coming out, as a teenager, we regularly dealt with threats and harassment. One time, a group of students, primarily white and primarily male, brought baseball bats, to the location of an LGBTQ campus dance, and they hung out outside, threatening to queer bash people at the dance. When the police were called, they laughed in our faces, and began to verbally harass us along with the baseball bat welding college guys.

I walked two of my gay male friends home, that night, my wheelchair being the only thing that protected us, from getting jumped. It was not long before I started receiving anonymous phone calls, and when I reported them, I was told they would be putting my name in the newspaper, and outing me, something everyone I knew had the possibility of seeing. So, I told the police officer to ignore my report since I wasn’t out then. I was too afraid.

I had watched the world evolve, slowly from that time of harassment to a time where the majority of Americans say they believe LGBTQ people deserve equal rights. I thought that all we needed to do was to continue to fight, to keep eradicating what violence remains. I was wrong. I didn’t understand what we were truly up against. The violence never left. It changed. It became something even more sinister. I have discovered that this violence is different. The violence we used to experience, was right there on the surface. We saw it outwardly expressed, and we could not ignore it in the same way. This violence… even those of us who experience it every day, is insidious. It is apparent in the passive aggressive way we still get treated, even by those who claim to support us. It is in the subversive violence experienced by the trans community, just for doing something like going to the bathroom. It is the way intersectionality factors into the violence. It’s easier for many of us to ignore, because we want to forget, want to think it’s better, or we are not visibly seeing it ourselves.

The overt hatred that feeds this violence is not as fringe as we wanted to believe. It had been there, bubbling near the surface, just waiting to erupt. Our society created this, and all of the activism in the world could not have stopped this. We could. All of us. We could have recognized what was happening, and that the violence was still there, right beneath the surface. And you, you could have worked with us fighting for acceptance for everyone. You could’ve helped us, by learning to accept. For those out there not accepting or not speaking up enough, you could have stopped this… You could have made sure this environment of hatred towards LGBTQ people had been eradicated, long ago. Instead, you hid behind ignorance and religion, making this all possible. You have blood on your hands!!!

Acceptance needs to happen. Nothing will change, if it doesn’t. This event, it will forever be embroiled in the United States’ history. Centuries from now, if the world is still around, children of the future will learn about this. It will be used as a cautionary tale, for how we treat others. How could such a society do this?

As a society we need to change… you need to accept us as we are… gay, trans, bisexual, pan, lesbian, asexual, queer, genderqueer. Accept us, as we are, as our own perfect selves, like you should any other human being. We need to do this…the world depends on it.

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