Comment by Lyn McGinnis

Before the massacre on Sunday morning, June 12, in Orlando, Florida, I was a happy and secure gender variant polysexual queer. After these events I am slightly less secure. Perhaps my sense of safety was always an illusion. We may see positive incremental change in ninety-nine out of one hundred people, but what if that one extra person has a gun? We cannot live for them. We must live for the other ninety-nine, who are showing their true feelings now.

We are seeing an unprecedented dialogue between Queers and Muslims. LGBTIQ persons are warning against any retaliation on the Muslim community. Queers defending Muslims? When does that happen? When the veil drops revealing both communities are subjected to the same hostility. All oppressions are linked. By embracing this fact we may work together to discover the root causes of this fear and ignorance and address them positively.

There have been times when I have been subjected to overt prejudice. I have been transparently denied housing, I have been experienced abuse at work, I have been yelled at in the street. When I was young I was bashed in situations where I had no power. Worse, I suffered from an internalized voice disparaging and condemning me. Now, I never leave the house without pencilling in my eyebrows and checking my lipstick. I was born male but under no circumstances will I allow anyone to call me a ‘man.’ Truth be told, for some time now no one does. People automatically switch to feminine pronouns when they meet me for the first time. I am still looking for new pronouns beyond the gender binary.

While I credit part of this with the social evolution taking place in our culture. It also has to do with my own long struggle for self acceptance. Most people respond positively to those who are at home in their own skin, regardless of how differently they present to themselves. I have seen check out cashiers who used to scowl at me giving me warm smiles. Just by my existence I have triggered a process leading to their acceptance. While these personal steps help others farther back on their own journey, they are profoundly fortified by those who went before. Myself, and many others, stand on their shoulders. We now welcome bearing the next generation on ours. Despite this happy prognosis the work remains. Pockets of hatred and intolerance remain, individual and institutional. We must continue working to change these roadblocks to acceptance and understanding. We must not forget queers in other parts of the world knowing nothing of the evolution in our society and living in fear, not only from their neighbours and families, but from the state itself.

We have known setbacks and, yes, tragedies. The Orlando massacre will stand out as one of the worst of this generation. This is because we have already come so far. Let us honour those who have fallen and support each other every step of the way.

This comment originally appeared in the blog of Lee Horton-Carter on Saturday, June 18, 2016.