I caught a taxi this morning. Muslim taxi driver. We listened to the radio silently, side by side all the way, ABC News. Almost all of it, relentlessly, consisted of quotes about the evils of Islam, from lengthy Trump and Clinton quotes to a rationalised discussion about indefinite imprisonment for those with radical views in our own country.
We sat, rigid with embarrassment, with nothing to say. All I could think was that this was 10 minutes out of my day, but it was going to be repeated over and over again for him. And still I had nothing to say.
Until in the end, I just swore. Out of helplessness more than solidarity — because what on earth could I say that wouldn't be patronising. He smiled a little smile at my frustration, whether out of relief or simply placating a paying customer, I don't know. I wished him a good day and left.
This has become a world I don't know how to live in.
I've been mainlining RuPaul's Drag Race in the last couple of weeks, and all night I had dreams of gunned-down Drag Queens and their beautiful lovers, my brain struggling to avoid this by getting the weekly challenge “just right”, but knowing even in my fevered dreams that, violence is still the birthright of the LGBT community.
All reality TV shows rely on tragic back stories, but Drag Race does this with ease, as the legacy of physical and psychological violence, family rejection, homelessness and racism plays its tune through the contestants' lives. It may feel that every Idol contestant has a dead relative, but Drag Race contestants bond over their trauma, simultaneously understanding the ordinary and extraordinary nature of their experiences. This gives context to the cattiness of the show. When your mother has told you she wishes you were dead, a few nasty comments about your wig are just sibling-like jostling for family hierarchy, underpinned by the fundamental acceptance, love and irritation the rest of us found without struggle.
But to reign this back in, it revolves around 50 dead people in Orlando and a society far keener to blame it on foreign interlopers than to own their own culture of violence that is used to enforce gender and sexual “norms”; to own that shooting up a gay bar — or bombing, or setting fire to, or running in with baseball bats, or waiting outside to beat the crap out of a patron or two — is as American as apple pie.
Just like spousal abuse, by the way. Yet again, we have another mass shooter with a history of misogynist violence. His ex hasn't explained why — or if — she didn't go to the police, but we all know the answer. The risk of making the violence worse was stronger than the faint hope that they would help her to escape. Family, in her case, were a much better bet. Her experience didn't even count enough to deny him a gun license.
So much hate, as if responding to a hate crime with more hate is going to help us find a path through this. So grateful for all the peeps who have been bucking that trend, clinging to a determination to connect, not disconnect. If we are going to have to sit rigidly side by side listening to bile, at least let's try to sit together.
[Alison D's name was withheld due to employer restrictions.]
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