As I write this, it is a week since the shooting in Orlando. Other news stories are taking the place of the Orlando coverage as the world continues on. In my small part of Japan, it dropped off the front page of the papers days ago. I’ve never felt the difference between my online world and real life world so keenly–it doesn’t feel right how quickly things have returned to normal when there is absolutely nothing normal about this.
I’ve written this post five or six times over the last week, trying to get it right. I’ve decided, finally, that it’s not as important to get it right as it is to voice support for the LGBTQ community in the wake of the terrible loss the LGBTQ community in Orlando–and Mexico–and the world–has suffered, and still suffers.
Until this last week, I considered myself an ally, and as an ally, I think it is important to listen first, and use my voice not necessarily to give my opinion, but to signal boost voices within the community that might not otherwise get heard. This no longer seems adequate. It’s taken me a while to realise why.
Warning: excessive naval gazing ahead.
My own sexuality’s always been a low priority for me. I figured I was straight and a late bloomer–a really, really late bloomer, but who really cares?–and that’s been that. There was a period of my teenage years where I was terrified I might be lesbian (despite not really being quite sure what a lesbian was–teenaged me was extremely sheltered), and was constantly analysing myself for some sign of interest in a guy. When I finally found one, I mentally went ‘phew!’ and forgot about it. A couple of creepy boyfriends later, I settled into comfortable singledom, trusting that I would meet the right guy eventually.
In the meantime, I discovered fandom, including the slash fandom, moved to Japan, and made friends I would never have met in the New Zealand countryside. Horizons broadened! Some of my friends turned out to be gay, lesbian or bi, and their acceptance of themselves and others taught me what acceptance truly means. If asked, I think I would have identified at this point as ‘straight, but.’ That eventually became, ‘straight but I don’t feel straight.’ It was maybe two years ago that I realised that I am probably asexual, two months ago–helped by the love, respect, tolerance and bravery of the online LGBTQ communities–that I could finally acknowledge to myself that I’m attracted to guys and girls and that is okay. I kept this discovery to myself because seriously, asexual-bisexual? Could you get a more non-commital sexuality? It makes even me want to roll my eyes. But having that knowledge, even if I would never act on it in any sexy way, made me feel secure and safe.
That changed on June 12th. I don’t pretend to feel anything on the level of the hurt, the betrayal, the anger and the loss that the LGBTQ community of Orlando, or even America, feels in the wake of this attack. Its unimaginable. The possibility that it could happen again–that’s unacceptable. Like so many other members of this community, I’ve been searching for a way to make a difference. I keep coming back to two things. Visibility and solidarity. It’s taken me far, far too long to come to terms with myself, but I think it’s time I stepped up, acknowledged what the larger LGBTQ community has done for me and do my best to give that back.
I write under a pseudonym because I teach, and I worry that one of my students might look me up and read something they’re not ready for. It’s a genuine concern I have–but it’s also extremely convenient, allowing me to draw a line between who I’m ‘out’ to. My family knows what I write, but I have kept this pseudonym a secret from everyone but my sister, and three trusted friends. The idea of removing that wall is terrifying–but its time to be more proactively visible, not as an ally, but as part of this community.