From Philadelphia to Orlando

Vigil for Orlando at Stonewall, 6/12/16.

Vigil for Orlando at Stonewall, 6/12/16.

Sunday morning I woke up to the news of the massacre in Orlando. A gunman with an assault rifle in a gay dance club. Forty-nine dead.

I was still on a high from my two days at the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference (PTHC). I spent Sunday night at a vigil on Christopher St., and then went out for dinner with friends I knew from my ACT UP days. The vigil was supposed to be comforting, but it made me angry.

I understand self-hate. I understand hating your parents. I understand hating your abusers. I understand hating your government. I don’t understand killing 49 strangers.

I’ve spent a lot of time being angry. Angry at my mother. Angry at the government. Angry at a society that doesn’t see me or value my life. Angry at the media. Angry at the politicians who did nothing to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people dying from AIDS. The same politicians who do nothing to stop anti-LGBT legislation or to restrict access to assault rifles. They used AIDS as a political weapon against the gay community, just as they are using the Orlando massacre as a political weapon agains Muslims and immigrants. I hold them as responsible for the 49 deaths as the man who pulled the trigger. 

Once, when I was a teenager, I lost my temper and hit my mother. I was in a rage. I haven’t hit anyone since, although I’ve been provoked and had to wrestle myself down. I learned to keep away from my mother. I learned to walk away from bullies. I struggle with my anger. I try not to think about revenge, but sometimes I dream about it. I’m glad I don’t own a gun.

The two sessions at PTHC that made me think about my future were Joe Ippolito and Jayden Sampson’s Baby Boomers and Gen-Xer’s: Exploring Aging Issues in Trans Male Communities and Micah’s Transition Your Way: The Gender Playbook.

Last year, I went to Joe and Jayden’s presentation (and wrote about it here). It convinced me that I had to get a Primary Care Physician (I went to Callen-Lorde). I found out I had high cholesterol, and am now under the care of a cardiologist (at Columbia-Presbyterian). This year, Joe and Jayden talked a lot about the dangers of social isolation, even when you have a partner. They were talking about people like me. I need to be pro-active; not sit around waiting for everyone else to make the first, second, and third move. I can’t smolder alone. I don’t want to implode.

Micah presented a “how to” for transitioning outside of the “standard” narrative; transition without a preconceived idea of where you are going or how you are going to get there. He explained the disconnect between how you feel, how you look, and how other people perceive you. That you will always be making compromises. My favorite graphic was the “gender iceberg”; a small visible trans peak sticking up above the ocean, with a huge mass of identity concealed below. It reminded me that I need a little more balance in my iceberg.

The_Gender_IcebergNotes: The Gender Playbook workshop is fun and upbeat; if you ever get a chance to see Micah give this workshop, go. In the interim, you can watch him giving the presentation at Gender Odyssey (on YouTube). It is in three parts – my favorite is Part 2: What Is Transition?

At the vigil Sunday night, my friends and I were approached by Bustle photographers asking us when was the last time we felt unsafe. Alexis, Nicholas, and I appear in the piece, which can be found here.

13 thoughts on “From Philadelphia to Orlando

  1. Herb Dino

    The news about Orlando jolted me to the core. I spent all of Sunday and Monday feeling stunned, not sure what to say, trying to say things, feeling like I wasn’t saying the right things… There was a certain incomprehensibility about it. My mind refused to wrap itself around what happened.

    I find it really interesting that you chose to talk about anger in relation to this. I’ve been feeling angry too. I am also a person with a lot of anger inside, about this and about so many other injustices. I think, depending on how it is channeled, that anger can be potentially dangerous or empowering.

    Also, I really like the gender iceberg.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      There is a lot to process about the shooting in Orlando. It is painful to think about what happened – and easier to think about the politics that are unfolding – including the focus on Islamophobia and xenophobia/anti-immigration stuff.
      I was grateful that Anderson Cooper read the names and talked about each person who was murdered as a way of focusing it back on the victims.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Herb Dino

        Yes, that there is a lot to process is definitely a good way of putting it.

        We certainly need to be focusing on the victims and the homophobia which prompted the attack, not getting all caught up in even more anti-Islam rhetoric.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Mrs Fever

    Wow… The use of white boards in those “fear” photos makes each message all the more striking.

    My brother, who is gay, lives in Tampa. He travels all over the state of FL, frequently to Orlando. When I found out about the attack – Sunday morning – I sent messages. I could barely breathe until I heard back from him that he was okay. He is safe, his husband is safe, and their friends are accounted for.

    I feel guilty at the intensity of my relief. Because I know that SO MANY others did not get “I’m okay” responses from their loved ones. But I *am* relieved. And angry and sad and horrified and frustrated at my impotence in the face of such senseless violence.

    I’m glad you had such a positive experience at PTHC. I really like the gender iceberg. It’s a great analogy and definitely food for thought.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’m glad your brother and his husband and their friends are OK – that sounds terrifying – waiting and not knowing.
      When the photographers walked up to us, we all said “sure” and started writing – it didn’t feel particularly powerful until I went to see the images – and realized that as a series it was pretty thought provoking (NYC is actually a pretty safe place for LGBT people – but many of us noted an almost daily fear that we don’t usually talk about).

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  3. mmayfaire

    Thank you. I live in Florida and have family and friends that live in Orlando. Gay Days in Orlando has been a part of my life since I was a teenager. The massacre in Orlando hit home. The anger I’m feeling is a bit over whelming. Everyone of us that are LGBTQ are in danger every where all the time. We do not have the same rights as other Americans. We were under attack over the right to walk into a bathroom just a few days ago. States have been hard at work to pass laws giving them the right to discriminate against us and our civil and human rights. I’m very angry that it takes something like this for “some” people to realize that ….yeah we are Americans. That we are human beings.
    Thank you for sharing your feelings.
    Morgan

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      There is a lot of hate out there – and a lot of guns – and our culture deals with conflict and things they don’t understand with violence. American culture has to change. And the anti-LGBT, anti-muslim, rascist, xenophobic rhetoric has got to stop.

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  4. Lesboi

    Angry. And sad. I cried for the first time since I started T. My heart is broken for the families, the friends and the lovers of the victims. I just don’t have words. I’m glad you were able to get some of this out.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  5. Searching4Self2013

    Isolation has been on my mind a lot. Did the seminar spark any ideas about how to do that work of fighting your isolation. It sounds like a cop out, but I have been stymied at coming up with ideas for finding IRL community. Making new connections, new friends as an adult is really hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      There concerns were getting out of the house, talking to people (outside of work), and using your mind actively/creatively.
      They specifically recommended finding a house of worship that was open to LGBT, volunteering, and finding/joining a LGBT support group. I’m not religious, but they were really into church as a social resource.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Searching4Self2013

        Thanks! Yes, my church was a significant source of social and emotional support before I came out. Have a hard time internally justifying attending a church whose doctrine doesn’t mesh with my understanding, just for the social interaction. I would feel that I was using them, rather than communing with them. But I’ll give some thought to volunteering. The only LGBT support group I’ve found where I live is for youth.

        Thanks for the tips.

        I hope you find a solution lace for your hurt & anger. I’m still looking for mine. 👊🏻🙏

        Liked by 1 person

  6. micah

    Jamie – I thought that was you in the audience! I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to catch up, I was MIA the rest of Friday. I’m going to borrow your explanation of my presentation, since you managed to summarize it better than I do.

    I’ve also been processing, contemplating… I saw the “breaking news” just as I was going to bed, and woke up to Philly Pride on Sunday. It was a strange mix of emotions. I have a feeling this event is really going to change the discourse on LGBTQ rights globally.

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