“We are asking community to share in pain, prayers, art, love and vision of
protection and safety.”
There is a disconnect between what the general LGBTQ community experiences and what young queer people of color experience was the main message behind a vigil held Wednesday, June 15, 2016 for the victims of the Orlando massacre last weekend. Upon attempting to participate in a vigil held at the Tracks gay nightclub held to honor the victims, two carloads of members from the groups Buried Seedz of Resistance (BSEEDZ) and Survivors Organizing for Liberation (SOL) were shocked at the sight of the extent of police presence and were so affected at the sight of people being searched that they turned away from the vigil in anguish.
The two community groups then organized a separate vigil for,
“LGBTQI community, family, allies and relatives that need safer spaces to grieve, act and commit to a renewed sense of urgency to the safety and protection of LGBTQI people of color starting in our own state here in Colorado.”
A wide group of about 100 people from the Indigenous, Latina/Latino, Muslim, LGBTQI, 2spirt and all other community groups that were invited showed to mourn the loss of their community members from Orlando earlier in the week but also to recognize the lives of the 14 trans women of color who have been murdered so far in 2016 alone.
Diana Amaya member of BSEEDZ began the vigil, “We wanted to let everybody know and remind folks that this isn’t an isolated incident, that this has been happening, that we forget the 25 plus transwomen who were murdered last year, the 14 women who have already been murdered this year. All this is just a part of genocide to our people.”
Last year was the deadliest on record for transgender US residents, with at least 21 trans women killed, but the number does not include those whose deaths were not reported or investigated, nor victims who were misgendered by police and media or simply not recognized as trans women, which trans rights groups say is not uncommon.
Participants marched from the BSEEDZ/SOL office down Tejon and 38th Street to La Raza Park where the space was opened for those who wished to speak.
One person spoke about why the group feels disconnected from the annual Denver Pridefest, “Last year we were seeing our history erased. It hurts so much to have the largest organizations here that are supposed to hold space for our communities sell out. The police, Wells Fargo, Walmart, all of these corporations, all of these entities, all of these industries that have exploited our people, exploited all of our generations and we deserve so much better than that. Not only do we deserve that, our grandparents deserve that, our parents deserve that, and my brothers and sisters and my babies deserve that. So I ask that if you attend Pride this year, if that’s something you’re going to do, remember that history.”
Two members of the slam poetry team Minor Disturbance Ayla Sullivan and Emery Vela shared a poem that they had just redrafted earlier that day, “We wrote this poem out of a lot of sadness. I know that violence like this happens so often in our communities. It’s very important that we acknowledge the sentiments of the people who have passed and recognized that this is still something that is going on. We’re still fighting.”
“Queerness has not always been something that was shamed before the colonizers came, it was something that was sacred. It was something that was beautiful and it’s still something that is beautiful”
change myself if i could
it’s just that
i just wanted to tell you that
i come from a culture that forgets itself
scolding me for my broken spanish
grandma, my inability to speak vietnamese
mom, our colonizers language is central to
our mexicano pride
to our assimilation
a roman catholic faith integral to our family life
and our erasure
i try to piece myself together through racist conquistadors accounts of transgender shamans in brazil
not peru, colombia
i cannot find mexico
we had no time to salvage indigenous traditions in the bloodbath
before our bodies were sinned they were holy
you have twisted spirits into ghosts
my grandmother, the matriarch of self-sacrifice to one’s culture
she forgets the trans shaman who kept her country sacred
a devout wife to a gay man
her homophobia is more than product of a failed marriage
it is an obligation to the colonized version of vietnam
i would change if i could
to the saigon of
the u-s pawn that demonized buddhism
uplifted catholic erasure of trans identities
i don’t know how to reclaim a culture i never experienced
is it even my right?
spanish, a gendered language leaves no room for the gender variance breathing in our people
the fact that there is technically a word for transgender in spanish is not helpful
put a cross and transgender together and you get transgenero
as a poet i do not know how to exist without language
we are so concerned with proving our trauma with historical evidence, but i’m exhuming a language that cannot be googled, a history too threatening to europeans to survive
my body is a sacred oral history i cannot grasp, a body reaching for rough translations that never seem to fit.
all this identity that cannot fit neatly into english, let alone vietnamese
i have truth in this body that will not translate outwords.
what good is a stolen culture to an assimilating body
there is no handbook for refugees on how to save your history when you’re too busy saving your life
i don’t guilt my family for their survival
don’t shame them for succumbing to the erasure
i carry their sacrifice in my stomach like a barbed wire
promised to love the american life they fought for me to breathe in
my family has been conditioned to assimilate for survival
i am tired of passing or trying to pass as a learned behavior of survival
i am tired of holding up a woman’s body as a costume in my own culture whose traditions would never have asked me to
my quiet grandpa who i have never had a conversation about my gender or my sexuality
quietly reminds me buddhism has always had five genders and five sexualities
our culture has always affirmed us
but i have no roots besides my oral history to ground in
my grandfather is the only person i can use as evidence
i cannot find vietnam, mexico
in a gender variance encyclopedia that isn’t explained by cis doctors telling me how trans people are disgusted by their bodies, medical language to bind us into existence based on study and fascination
i want to share myself with you in the language you have forgotten
and i am learning
my body is humming our culture back to you
Another person said that he identified as 2spirit and has been guilty of forgetting his community since his own transition from a woman to a man. He said that since then his life has been so much easier that he had forgotten that the same wasn’t true for everyone.
A mother spoke to say that she’s the mom of a trans boy and that the experience is brand new to them, “I’m having a hard time and I’m scared. I need you to watch out for each other and watch out for my kid.”
One speaker said that she just returned from seeing her brother who identifies as queer graduate from DePaul University in Chicago and as he received his degree on stage, he was rushed off the stage as he raised his fist and yelled, “Orlando.” “His own institution couldn’t protect him at that time.”
In the procession back, the group held candles along with the pictures of the Orlando victims while reading each of their names. Cars slowed and honked in support.
The ceremony closed with the reading of the 14 names of those who had been murdered this year before the Orlando massacre: Kendari/Kandace, 16 years old, Burlington, Iowa; Quartney Davia Dawsonn-Yochum, 32 years old, Los Angeles, California; Mercedes Successful, 32 years old, Haines City, Florida; Goddess Diamond, 20 years old, New Orleans, Louisiana…….
BSEEDZ member Ananas invited the crowd to break the fast during the season of Ramadan by sharing a bowl of dates with others. The shooter at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando was identified as Muslim, so mourners wanted to ward off the impulse in some communities to blame those of the Muslim community for violence.
BSEEDZ and SOL maintain support for LGBTQ communities who experience violence and are marking 30 years of hosting a crisis hotline. That number is 1-888-557-4441.
They have expanded the hotline services to include those who are experiencing acts of violence through Islamophobia in addition to any variety of violence. Other organizations who offer similar support are:
It Takes A Village, Sisters Of Color United for Education, VORP Denver, 9to5, AFSC, BLM5280, Denver Justice Project, Building Bridges, SURJ, COLOR, Denver Fair Foods, Woodbine, LISTOS, Heal Denver, Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, District Council 15 of the International Union of Painters, CityWILD, and La Gente Unida.