Listening to my Queer Latinx family from all corners of the Americas as I attend the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) here in Santo Domingo, there are three main emotions surfacing: fear, grief, and rage. Many of our Queer kin cannot get out of bed this morning from the overwhelming heartbreak, others find themselves scanning and scanning the web for every detail of the massacre, and I’ve now lost count of the number of times I have heard someone say “I just can’t stop crying.” Some of us are numb. But if there is any one consistency among my peoples it is that no one, not one LGBTQIA Latinx person I know, is surprised.
What does that reveal about the current state of the lived reality of our peoples?
It says that the glossy-print images of beautiful same-sex weddings and happily ever after with full inclusion is not the reality of our lives, especially not those of us who are immigrants, working-class, and/or people of color. And now, it’s time for those of us in the U.S. to stop with the gay fairy tales and focus our collective energy on demolishing the institutional roadblocks that deny our communities the most fundamental human rights.
And before we get a savior complex, let us remember that there are many brilliant organizers and collectives on the ground in every country in the Americas doing amazing intersectional justice work, not just in the United States. In just the past two days I have met highly skilled Trans* and LGBI leaders from Bolivia to Suriname, from St. Lucia to Argentina, and everywhere in between. There are more than a dozen organizations working together right here in the Dominican Republic in La Coalición LGBT Dominicana.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) recently issued a report registering 594 murders of LGBT people in the Americas in a 15-month period. Yesterday, after the Orlando Massacre, the Coalición LGBT Dominicana at the 46th General Assembly of the OAS declared a State of Emergency for LGBTTI persons in the Americas.
Let’s be clear. The massacre in Orlando was absolutely a hate crime. Members of our Beloved LGBTQIA Latinx community were specifically targeted because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. And we should be outraged.
And it was absolutely an act of terrorism. But the threat is not Islam. It isn’t even religious extremists. The threat is bigger than that. It is the terror that is enacted by all of us in different ways and to different degrees. And it comes from internalized prejudice that we each carry for some group of people that we have been trained to hate or fear. It is the insidious ways in which more powerful groups of people use religion, laws, and the economy to bring death to marginalized communities.
The tragedy is not just a one-time event in a club early Sunday morning, it is ways in which we suffer lesser and greater deaths each day through macroaggressions from friends and strangers, from lovers and family members. It is the struggle for life and love and belonging in the face of homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, classism, ableism, and Islamophobia. It is all connected. And some of us are really pissed.
Yesterday at the General Assembly, several Trans* people were accosted by a handful of Christian fundamentalists while trying to use the restroom. A group of about 25 LGBTTI Latinxs who heard the commotion—most of us strangers—immediately responded by circling the bathrooms along with the people trying to block the Trans* women’s entry to them. All of a sudden our voices, screaming “DISCRIMINACIÓN!” and “TRANSFOBIA!” were louder than the hecklers. In that particular moment, we were critical mass. There was such anger and ferocity in our voices as we chanted. It was as if we were trying tocommunicate the urgency of our very lives in that moment. We were the ones that defined the frame of what was really going on at that bathroom: Discrimination. Transphobia.
When I see my Trans sisters being brave in the face of Christian Supremacy, it makes me more brave. When I see our Queer comrades from the Global South sweetly slow dancing in the streets of Santo Domingo, it makes me more bold with my own Queer love. And our communities take to the streets and to the legislatures and to the churches, you can bet that that is where you will find me.
We love fiercely and we dance joyfully, because we are growing critical mass. We are here. We have always been here. And now we are finding each other, more and more. We are getting louder. And we will not be disappeared. We will survive. And I believe that we will win. Critical mass is coming. Soon.