The Orlando Massacre.
I’ve been trying to figure out why I haven’t been as emotionally distraught as everyone else in the LGBT community.
At Toronto’s candlelight vigil, I saw faces deeply affected by the shooting. I saw fear. I saw disappointment. I saw tears. People were mourning their queer comrades as it was a painful reminder of why some people are closeted. It was distressing largely because it was supposed to be a celebration in a safe haven at the peak of Pride month, but the shooting took it away and forced them to re-question every safe space they thought they had.
I was saddened by the shooting. It’s unfair, it’s hateful. My stomach sank watching Anderson Cooper list out the names of all the victims. My heart broke when I read about the mother who was killed while accompanying her gay son to Pulse to celebrate his queer identity. But I shed no tears, and once the video ended or the article was finished, I would carry on, re-aligning myself with routine emotions, only to repeat the cycle when I’d come across another Orlando related tweet/video/article.
Before this, I had just started to embrace and identify wholly with my queerness and queer brethren, departing from the heterosexual masses. While the Orlando shooting caused the LGBT community to erupt in emotional disarray, it was in stark contrast to my lack of emotional reaction, which made me question my queerness and thrust me into an orphaned space in between. And I’ve been here since.
I was able to sympathize… but I couldn’t empathize. You share an identity with the victims. You should be emotionally distraught. This was an attack on a big part of you. Or is it not?
I considered the possibility that perhaps I don’t have the emotional capacity for it, but I know for a fact that I have a higher-than-average capacity for empathy – but for some reason, it wasn’t being triggered like it was for other queer people.
Then an LGBT role model of mine, Jen Richards, tweeted:
I think about that a lot. How normal it is. Our conversations move from death to bawdy humor with a fluidity I doubt others can comprehend.
— Jen Richards (@SmartAssJen) June 14, 2016
@SmartAssJen Resilience is the identity marker underneath our “more visible” identity markers.
— fab (@aintthatfab) June 14, 2016
She agreed, but I couldn’t help but have this play over and over in my mind. It felt like I had just pat myself on the back with my response, deeming myself “resilient”. Like I had dismissed everything, let naivete get the best of me, and conveniently cloaked the absence of emotions with “I am resilient”.
It felt like humble-bragging, and on my list, humble-braggers are down there with bike-thieves.
But in the face of adversity, a challenge, a tragedy, my immediate reaction is “okay. What from here?”. I don’t linger. I empathize if it’s a friend suffering, but that’s part of my own “what from here” approach. I move on. I just don’t see the point in letting it get to me, so I don’t bother with emotions. In this sense, they’re not productive, they have no functioning value, and if I let everything get to me, I’d be weighed down to the point of immobilization by everything that’s happening in the world. I can’t afford to do that and it would take away from time that could be spent making the world a better place and preventing something like this from happening.
And still… I feel like a part of me, as a human, is not functioning correctly.
But the absolute scariest part? I don’t know if I want to fix it.