The tragic mass shooting on Sunday night at the popular Orlando, Florida gay nightclub Pulse, has been confirmed as “the worst shooting in American history.” The massacre left 49 dead and an additional 53 hospitalized, many with critical injuries. The suspected gunman, 29-year-old U.S. citizen Omar Mateen was found dead at the scene. The shooting, which follows a sadly interminable history of violence in LGBT nightclubs, is now being considered the largest hate crime in U.S. LGBT history.

LGBT and allied writers took to social media (Facebook, Twitter, and personal blogs) with a mix of outrage, sorrow, and thoughtful reflection.

From author and performer Justin Vivian Bond:

They’re killing Queers and Showgirls. They wish to silence the singing, dancing, and all that brings joy into our hearts and bodies by attacking community, sexuality, and freedom. But even as we mourn our losses, we never forget those we’ve lost, and we never let go of the joy their lives represent. Fuck the terrorists, religious extremists, forces of oppression and their spiritual sickness. They are a death cult. Our response is and always has been to love, laugh, sing, and live on!!! I’m writing this with tears in my eyes but I know they’ll dry and we will never be defeated. Bless those whose lives were so brutally taken this weekend, bless their lovers and their families -and we are all their families. This is not over and we will never quit being who we are fiercely, proudly and joyously. We rage, we rise, we never forget. Live life to the fullest every day you can and love radically. Love as radically and hard as possible. Blessed be.

From author and music journalist Ann Powers:

The first of the events that would historically become known as “AIDS benefits” took place at a dance club, Paradise Garage, in 1982. So much organizing happened via the clubs in so many cities and towns in the 1980s, and it still does. I know most of you well realize that dance clubs and dancing itself are at the heart of LGBTQ community building and activism. Club owners and patrons have served as he public face of the LGBTQ community in countless parades and other public events, carrying pride and goodwill and activism into the streets. Clubs have also historically been safe spaces for men and women who face brutal homophobia in their work, family, and otherwise public lives. And theyre where young heterosexual people (like me) have been able to experience, however provisionally, sensuality and joy within a queer paradigm. Clubs are havens and utopias. They remake our bodies and our psyches into more receptive organisms. They originate and sustain new families. This is one reason why so many clubs have had names like the Sanctuary, Neighbors, Tribe…Pulse. To violate this space is to go to the heart, the root. I mourn.

From poet Mark Doty:

Sorrow this morning, inescapable. Watering the garden, walking the dogs in the park, buying milk. Imagining what it was like for the people who’d gone out to dance, their three unthinkable hours, and how it is this morning for the survivors, and for everyone who knows someone lost last night, for those who don’t yet know that someone won’t be coming home. And rage, too, at the opportunistic Lt Governor of Texas, who dares to say that those who died “reap what they sowed.” In other words, they asked for it. I’m going to make myself a list of everyone I can think of, every citizen of my country lost, in these last years, to goddamn guns (or tasers or strangleholds or knives or fists or sheer neglect), every one who asked for it by being queer or black or poor, or the wrong gender in the wrong place, the wrong faith, the wrong language, wearing the wrong body. It’s easier to be furious than it is to grieve, in part because when I do get around to grieving it’s for every queer person I ever knew stripped of dignity, or tossed out by a family, or attacked on the street. It’s myself, of course, though not just myself I’m grieving for.

From poet and essayist Saeed Jones:

Queer people, this is why we’ve gotta love each other everyday every way. All of us. All the identities. In the end, WE ARE ALL WE GOT. Gay men gotta stan for trans women. Urban queens gotta rep for country queens. Rich heauxes gotta have poor heauxes back. WE’RE ALL WE GOT. We gotta love and support and listen and see each other across the bridge of our queer differences everyday in every way. WE’RE ALL WE GOT.

From author John Keene:

I am very saddened to hear about the horrific massacre in Orlando, Florida. Homophobia, transphobia, and ideologically-nurtured hatreds of all kinds, coupled with semi-automatic weapons, provide the fuel for terror, in this case literally. Another sad and perverse irony is that this occurred during LGBTIQ Pride Month, at a club that was full of Latinx and other POC queer people. In solidarity, I send my thoughts and prayers to those murdered, and their friends and families.

From writer and critic Joseph Salvatore:

This is a day when the news makes me physically sick, manifesting itself in my body, somewhere under my skin, along and around my bones, in my stomach, oily and vast. I need to keep identifying this feeling and reminding myself of its oceanic power, constantly and constantly reminding myself, for fear if I lose sight of it for a minute, I’ll get swept under. A constant psychic vigilance that seems now to be our human condition, like it or not; and the very effort to maintain that control contributes even more to the sickness. A lifetime, it now seems, of maintaining control. Of keeping this feeling always in check. And there is no turning off the news. Not anymore. For it is no longer news. It is now simply an update of the same news taking place outside our door. Over and over again. And today I am weakened by it. And that weakness feels akin—forgive me for the drama here—feels akin to death. (I know of no other way to express it.) And if there be any relief, then the only relief, candle-brief though it be, is to hug my children, to hold their little live bodies in my arms and breathe in their skin. And then to hug my spouse and hold that live body in my live arms while we are still alive. And to acknowledge that tremendous gift while we still can. Then I’ll let them hug my live body so I can stop being the subject of this hug and become simply its object. Receive the hug entirely. Shut my eyes and allow myself to experience that brief respite—allow myself to be, in their arms, fearlessly swept under.

From poet Dawn Lundy Martin:

Queer comrades–To experience public joy & pleasure, to love who we want and how, to be embodied as we see fit, to open our bodies to music and dance, to simply feel free, is to be a Queer Warrior in this country. We know the historical and systematic annihilation of queer people (how many trans people have been murdered in this country in the last two years?!!) is a problem inherent to how America does its homophobic and transphobic work. It has nothing to do with Islam. My heart aches for those gunned down in Florida and for those gunned down one by one everyday.

From author Sarah Schulman:

The patterns of US mass killings show that any group of people are vulnerable: Latino gay people in a club, Black church goers, little kids in grade school, people in the movies, high school students, co-workers at a Christmas party. What can we conclude? While race, sexuality etc are important in specific choices of victims, the larger reality is that gun availability, fear of identifying mental illness, and rhetoric normalizing violence are the problems. And since the killers are almost all men, there is a lot of thinking to do about male concepts of control. But escalating policing that is already too violent, condemning larger communities of humans, or projecting that we should walk around in fear of strangers, is the opposite of where we should be going.

From writer KG MacGregor:

To Omar Mateen and all others who plot violence against the LGBT community:

We aren’t afraid of you.

We know real fear. For many of us who grew up lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, our greatest fear was never your automatic weapons, your fists or anything else born in your depraved heart.

Real fear was being unloved. By our parents, our siblings. By our extended families and dearest friends. By our schools, churches, workplaces and communities.

There’s nothing you can ever do to us that scares us more than the thought of losing love. But once we revealed ourselves to others — no matter the outcome — our worst fear was forever behind us.

So if your aim was to leave us in terror, you lose.

We are wounded. But as we mourn, we’ll honor those with the courage to celebrate their lives openly while you and your kind live in the dark like cockroaches.

We’ve seen much worse than you. We don’t do fear anymore.

From writer and activist Darnell Moore:

If we don’t understand that material bullets are a consequence of the ideological bullets we target at folk everyday we too are complicit. Can’t shed tears over the tragic shooting of people enjoying their night at a gay club and still believe queer and trans folk are abhorrent. Can’t be a supporter of laws that make discrimination against LGBTQI people possible and cry when folk harm us.

From memoirist Kevin Sessums:

I am sitting in Starbucks right now typing this on my iPhone through rage-filled tears having just read about this tragedy in Orlando – a tragedy written not only in the blood of its victims but in this country’s fetish for guns and its homophobia that is stoked by fundamentalist religionists of every stripe. But since I grew up in the radical right-wing environment of southern gun-loving Christianist bigotry let me be very clear here in my rage and sorrow: every homophobic preacher in every pulpit and everyone who agrees with the demonization of gay people and every politician who bows to this kind of bigotry as Donald Trump did this week has blood on their hands this morning. Keep your words of solace to yourself. They are empty of meaning when you offer only words of hatred toward the LGBT community through your religionist and political rhetoric. Solace does not make you innocent of this massacre. It just makes you hypocritical in your cultural complicity in it.

I offer my own solace and prayers to those slain and those who loved them.

Because as angry as I am at right-wing radical religionists on this Sunday morning, I finally turn to prayer. The God of my understanding prevails. Sustains me. And will heal this anger. May She heal us all.

But fuck, folks, my anger in this moment is fierce and deeply felt. And folded into any sense of hope I can muster.

And in an elegiac Facebook post, poet Natalie Diaz wrote, “50 people are dead not for who they hurt but for how they loved: they love the way I do [.]”


Photo: Gerardo Mora/Getty Images



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9 Responses to “The Orlando Massacre: Writers Respond with Sadness and Outrage”

  1. 13 June 2016 at 3:30 PM #

    You mean “writers” respond with tired cliches. It was a Muslim, not a gun, that was the primary enemy.

    • 14 June 2016 at 3:32 PM #

      Dear Slim Pickens – guns are the enemy of all mankind and the ease with which they are obtained in the USA is beyond my understanding.

      Muslims are for the most part peaceful people, their religion preaches peace and tolerance. There are sadly the extremist minority who feel it is their right and their need to warp that religion and turn it to violence and hatred. Nothing new there, religion has been causing bloodshed since it began back in the mists of time. Christian zealots have spilled enough blood over the years, no religion is blameless.

      Your declaration that Muslims are ‘the enemy’ is both wrong and dangerous. Not all Muslims are out to destroy the world and remake it in their own image.

      Guns are the enemy, always have been. If you can argue with that then you’re beyond help. America’s obsession with firearms needs to end, right now, before anyone else dies because of it.

    • 17 June 2016 at 1:43 PM #

      Am dedicating my lecture today at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. on the national stage-on the opening of the first Romaine Brooks exhibition in 16 years and in conjunction with my new book on her art and life to the victims of the Orlando tragedy and their families sending messages of healing and condolences as I highlight this great American lesbian painter and her contributions to art and culture.

  2. 13 June 2016 at 4:14 PM #

    I’ll take these “tired clichés” any day over the racism being proffered by your ilk.

    Dear Lambda, thank you for sharing these words. They help a little.

  3. 13 June 2016 at 5:32 PM #

    He was an American, born of Afgan decent. Either way, the fact is that he was able to obtain guns capable of this devastation. The fact is its all tragic.

  4. 13 June 2016 at 8:20 PM #

    It was intolerance and fear that was the enemy. It was the inability to see the person for the label, the humanity for the hate. ❤

    But also this: It is no longer enough to be sad about gun abuse in the US. It’s time to actually do something about it.

  5. 14 June 2016 at 11:48 AM #

    You have a typo: It’s Dawn Lundy Martin, not Dawn Martin Lundy.

  6. 15 June 2016 at 11:33 AM #

    No I am not a famous author nor poet or even a celebrated celebrity.
    However I am a 55 year old gay man simply trying to live as happy a life as the world will allow with the person I love more then anyone in my life, but the world has become bitter, bitchy and filled with Bullies. Bullies who hate and Nasty Souls who are hateful to one another for sport.
    I live in South Florida and My Partner was born and raised in Orlando he knew a few of the Victims of that heinous killing spree.

    Watching him search online for who if any of his friends from Orlando were there something Hit me like a ton of bricks….My own life coming of age in the 80’s, that feeling of despair and deep loss I would never want him to have to deal with at such a young age.
    I was 20 yrs old when my partner Tom was Diagnosed with “Gay Cancer” (prior to the CDC’s naming the virus Aids) shortly after at the same year I as also diagnosed. I feel like a “here we go again” scenario as we did then but only today the Virus is Deeper and cannot be found on a cell on a microscope, however it already has a Name and it’s “HATE”
    As I read thousands of posts from people in pain or the well thought out prose of the literary and intellectual greats of today I see the same mistakes I saw in the Early 80’s…HATE IS HATE NO MATTER WHO YOU LOVE OF DIRECT IT TOWARDS!

    Why can no one see this fucked of level of Hate be it a Bully in the school yard, Facebook bombings my snotty teenage girls all they way to Osama Bin Laden. Hate is hate and verbal assaults kill everyday. GOD knows I am not making what happen lesser a savage attack then what it was! But Until we stop subdividing Hate Crimes into RACIAL, HOMOPHOBIC or POLITICAL it doesn’t take a Road Scholar to know how this will end.

    If anything Good can come out of something bad it was THE FIRST TIME THE WORLD HAS STOOD UP TOGETHER IN VIGIL AND BEGGED FOR IT TO STOP.
    Well that change starts with everyone one of us. Stop the bitchiness, Stop talking Shit not only about people you know but specially those you don’t and Stop Enjoying Others who are struggling. One day…that will be you count on it!

    I’m deeply sorrowful about what our world has become. We are all one group which is Humanity…HATE against one sub group is and an assault against ALL OF HUMANITY.

    Our ego’s place the blame on other “sub groups” because let’s face it, it’s easier and you pass the blame. So what happened in Orlando was not a LGBT hate crime and I am insulted to hear that it was, it’s bigger much bigger.
    It’s called Love and Understanding it’s how my generation was raised now we have to teach by example. One thing for certain I have seen a lot and done a lot in my lifetime. But THIS EVIL and HATE Can only be fixed if we All Fix ourselves FIRST.

  7. 17 June 2016 at 10:44 AM #

    Greif from the Grevious of Us
    In my area two by standard got stabbed by peers. And my manager wonders why I fear coming to work for the same grocery story business. Though it wasnot the store managers fault or the food corporations. It is just me paranoid that war is coming from the core of our planet that her people are hearing on decimal levels of natural change. Yet, you or I will not be able to predict it only minimize our lives. The lives I am still staying tor escavate their meaning to my life while living in the war zone of dyfuctionalism and diseasement. So, I devote myself to prayer every morning and try to become a finer artist every moment by understanding myself with other people. Yet, every personal death brings me grief just when joy begins to show-up. So, now I am looking for optimism through my kalidiscopes of greiving my little sisters death in October 15 and my ma’s in february; two month that I love on Caearian calendar. It is horrable to think our lives have come such timeline of perscriptions for stress, hurt , assault, and harm to the human conditon; just like cancer my zodiac sign not my condition. So, I am not sure now if I should finish my Master Studies in Flordia now or anywhere, seeing that surrendering is the greats equalizer as we fight against our worst enemies, the self.

    Former Graduate Student, Visual Artist, Poet, LGBTQ Family Member of United States of Americans and a Child of the Earth.

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