By Danny Ramadan
Through my sleepy eyelids, I opened my eyes to my buzzing mobile. “It’s too early in the morning,” I told myself, stretching to my nightstand and grabbing my phone, “Who is texting me at 6:45 a.m. on Sunday morning?”
It was a link on Facebook sent to me by a fellow queer person of Middle Eastern descent, urging me to click on it right away.
I read the news about the shooting in Orlando, and my heart slipped from my ribcage.
I could almost see one of the victims: hiding in the bathroom, sitting on top of the toilet seat so no one could see his legs from under the bathroom door, shivering.
This eighteen- (maybe nineteen-) year-old man was wearing his favourite summer tank top and his skinny jeans. He smelled of sweet perfume, and his hair was hella fine. In his head, while he was putting on the clothes earlier that night, he had dreams of young summery love, of dancing with a hot stranger, maybe even stealing a good night kiss.
In the bathroom stool, he was texting his mother.
“I love you so much.”
“They are shooting.”
“I will die.”
This is only one of over 50 other stories of people who were killed in the early morning hours on June 12 in Orlando, Florida, by the hatred-filled bullets of a homophobic person.
My activist-self kicked in. I spent all day Sunday writing on Facebook, supporting others as they struggle with the news, talking to friends and chosen family, and supporting the Vancouver Pride Society as they planned a candlelight vigil at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
I stood there among my LGBTQ-siblings at 8 p.m., raising my candle, hugging those around me, and holding back tears, as I listened to our leaders in the community sharing their thoughts, their sorrow, and their hopes for the future.
By sundown, and while the skies in Vancouver started to share our sorrow with its showers of rain, I walked back home.
That’s when the emotional side of me finally woke up. I sat in my dark living room, with my curtains down. Davie Street, right outside my window, was dark, empty, and quiet.
“I’m a bit scared,” I remembered my friend whispering to me back in the vigil. “We’re gathering here in Vancouver so openly now, someone might target us with a bomb or attempt to harm us while we’re here.”
That’s when I cried. I cried, because like him, my sense of safety and security here in the Great White North was shaken to its core by hearing about this massacre.
I cried because I couldn’t find the words back then to tell him that it’s okay to be scared, but to also be grateful for being among friends and families in this trying time of sadness.
I cried for my community of people of colour who share my skin tone, and those who identify as queer Muslims, who will undoubtedly face xenophobia in the coming months, as a knee-jerk response to this horrific act.
I cried because a safe space like Pulse in Florida, which honours a gay man who died of AIDS, has become a crime scene.
I cried because the investigators were deafened by the loud ringing of the victims’ mobiles, blasted with calls from loved ones, trying to reach out to them and make sure they are okay.
But most importantly, I cried for that lonely man who hid in a bathroom stool, and lost his life just for being queer, just like me.
Back in my bed, in the wee hours of the morning, I finally found solace, when a lesbian friend of mine texted me from across the oceans with one sentence.
“One day, together, we will make everything alright for us,” she said.
The memories of the hundreds of people gathering in the community brought me back to feeling safe and secure. The warmth in that space, as we shared a moment of silence, brought warmth back to my heart.
This is a moment that our community came together once more, stood tall once more, and across the world, we all mourned, and tomorrow, we will all go to work together spreading our message of love that wins over hate.
I will continue—along with my Qmunity coworkers and everyone who wants to join us—challenging homophobia, Islamophobia, racism, sexism, and xenophobia.
Bullets cannot bring us down when all of us are one community.
That thought, finally, allowed me to slip back to sleep.