Pulse Pride Massacre: Red League Statement of Solidarity
Members of Red League have, like queer people all over the world, spent the last week in mourning for the victims of the massacre of 49 queer people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and grieving a false sense of “safety” and “progress” for queer people as illusions to which we didn’t even realize we had been clinging. We stand in solidarity with the survivors of the massacre, with the comrades, friends and families of the dead and wounded, with the queer community of Orlando, and particularly with Latinx, Puerto Rican, QPOC and working class queer people everywhere. Our thoughts are on our trans and qpoc siblings who have not only been the most devastated by this killing but who aremost often the targets of day-to-day antiqueer violence and terror.
Perhaps one of the most terrible things about the massacre at Pulse–and the murders in La Madame in Veracruz, Mexico– is that they were attacks not only on the bodies and community of queer people, but on the historic institution of the “gay bar”– a social institution where queer people have found each other and made ourselves for at least 200 years. The gay bar, while no means free of class conflict or social ills, nevertheless is a place of respite and relative freedom. The gay bar is a fun place and a symbol of fun in the queer imagination. It’s a social space full of possibilities for sex, sweat, music, community and solidarity. The Pulse Pride Massacre also demonstrated that it is also a place where an entire social network can be wiped out in three short hours by a determined, enraged reactionary.
But the gay bar doesn’t have to be blown up or attacked to be destroyed: in cities across the country, gay bars,particularly those that cater to working class, women, and qpoc clientele are being shuttered and shut down by the same forces of displacement and destruction that are forcing the working class out of cities and into suburban slums. These are the the same forces of wage stagnation and wealth extraction that are crushing the entire working class. While the gay political class (gayeoisie) have celebrated the victory of achieving “marriage equality” and pushed the line that it represented overall progress for queer people, poor and working class queer people have been leading increasingly precarious lives. The Pulse massacre reveals the stark reality of the backlash against legal reforms and points to the limits of progress.
The Pulse massacre was not the beginning of this period of backlash, nor is this the end. The vulnerability of queers, like the vulnerability of POC and women, is not limited to this moment of backlash; it is rooted in our “last hired, first fired” status in workplaces and in families, in our daily vulnerability to interpersonal and state violence, and in everyday discrimination at home, work and public space. It is based in our vulnerability as the “most flexible” workers in a system that increasingly demands individual flexibility, and obscures the degree to which all work (paid and unpaid) is a collective social process. Nevertheless, more than 200 antiqueer bills have been introduced to state legislatures, mostly targeting the rights of trans people to access public accommodations. These legislative assaults, usually called “Bathroom Bills” have inspired violence against trans and gender nonconforming people and we have even witnessed the bombing of a bathroom in Target in Evanston, IL, after the company declared its bathrooms open to trans people. The bills have also worked as trojan horses, attacking local ordinances that protect queer people from on the job discrimination, and the case of North Carolina’s HB2, which tarnished a local ordinance that had previously increased the minimum wage for all workers to $15 an hour!
Beyond legal maneuvers, daily violence against queer people has been increasing in many cities–in New York City the last year has seen queer-bashings double. All queer people are threatened by queerphobic violence, but trans women of color in particular face a deadly sustained campaign of terror, one which seems to be ramping up as trans people become increasingly visible.
The massacre has only emboldened our enemies. While we have relived this week our personal and collective histories of trauma–childhood bullies, street violence, the 1973 attack on the Upstairs Lounge, the AIDS crises– homophobes have taken the opportunity to remind us on social media and in the streets that we are vulnerable, posting threats to our remaining queer spaces, shouting “fag” at us more and more when they see us in public.
Not Only Queers
We also recognize that this reactionary atmosphere of violence isn’t aimed only at queers. Black people–straight and queer, men and women–in the United States have been facing years of violent backlash from racist police and vigilantes, with an unarmed person murdered nearly every day in cities across the country. All women are also increasingly under threat from sustained campaigns of terror and violence by organized “men’s rights activists” who cast themselves in violent opposition to “feminists;” which for them means any woman they don’t like. We recognize the similarities between the perpetrators of terroristic violence on black people, queer people and women; Omar Mateen, George Zimmerman and Elliot Rodgers were all openly vitriolic racists, sexists and homophobes. While each assault is cast as specific to a certain group, all three killed or attacked people of color, men and women and queers either in their spectacular public displays of violence, or privately as domestic abusers perpetrating an individualized campaign of terror privately on the women they dated or were married to.
As the atmosphere of reaction builds, the political class both “left” and right has attempted to use the Pulse Pride Massacre to its own ends, in service of racist policy goals and against the working class. While right wing politicians including Hillary Clinton aimed to cast the attack as an act of “Islamist” terror targeting “Western freedom,” even at times going so far as to omit that the victims were majority queer Puerto Ricans in a queer venue, as they call for increased domestic surveillance and intensified imperialist warfare. Liberals have used the massacre to campaign for gun control legislation that would intensify the racist policing of communities of color that has already caused so much death, while neglecting that Mateen was a private cop, fan of the New York Police department and fully the product the system that arms police and mercenaries with urban combat weapons as it murders, demobilizes and disarms communities of color. We stand in solidarity with Muslim and POC people in the United States and abroad that will be impacted by this intensification of state violence and against and queer people that call for more policing, more surveillance and more war as solutions to terror and hate crimes against queer people.
Solidarity and Self Defense
Instead, Red League celebrate the sentiment expressed by many queer people in response to this terror; “Don’t Stop Dancing.” Don’t stop meeting queer people in public space, don’t stop loving other queer people. We hope to meet our siblings in the streets, the bars, and the parks this Pride, to dance, kiss, and talk about how we are sad, proud, tired and terrified. Let’s talk about how to rebuild queer spaces, queer and working class organizations, how to defend ourselves against racist, sexist and homophobic violence and how to resist the pressure to turn Pulse into fuel for global war and urban repression. Just dance, but also just talk, sing, mourn, fuck, organize and just build.