Guest Blog by Nikos Pecoraro
I’d like to share a little about my own experience as a queer person in this country.
When I see an American flag, I feel fear.
When I see the cross, I feel fear.
When I see a group of men, watch sports, or see police or MAGA, I feel fear.
When I travel to the Midwest and South, my childhood homes, I feel fear.
When I do anything outside the norm of my assigned gender binary, I feel fear.
This fear does not come from some imaginary place. It comes from the trauma of my lived experience as an out, perceivably queer person in this country. It comes from years of peer rejection, social ostracization, and community violence. It comes from injuries and scars sustained from homophobic people who hurt me. It comes from people yelling f*ggot at me from their cars and spitting it in my face at bars. From strangers shouting, “We don’t like your kind here!” It comes from childhood years of not knowing who disliked me—hated me—upon meeting me, not because I revealed my queerness, but because they sensed there was something “off” about me. It comes from a lifetime of not being accepted by a majority of people in my immediate surroundings.
You may be wondering why I chose to center myself in a shooting halfway across the country. This is not my intention. My goal in sharing my own experience is to localize this tragedy inflicted upon my community, to help impress the urgency of the message to people—who may not have a direct connection to the shooting but do have a connection to me—that queer hatred is very real and omnipresent in the United States. The shooting at Club Q is the logical next step in the hatred campaign spewed against queer people by Fox news, right-wingers, and many others. This—the mass shooting—is its ultimate manifestation when we don’t put our foot down sooner rather than later. It’s sickening. It’s heartbreaking. They can play innocent, but anyone with eyes, ears, or a brain knows the truth. They want queer people to suffer. They want to criminalize us. They want to eliminate us by any means necessary by painting us as pedophiles and groomers and evil.
To defeat queerphobia—meaning heterosexism and other forms of hetero-cisgender supremacy—it’s not enough to stand by. We must actively combat this hatred. We must say boldly to our queer youth and queer family, who live in pervasive fear and buried pain, “We support and love you exactly as you are. We will fight for your rights—not just your legal rights, but your right to exist in the sun.” We are done living in the shadows. We will thrive together.
Today, on this day marking indigenous genocide, the near-extinction of the Great Buffalo, and the senseless slaughter of millions of birds, I also mourn the victims of the Club Q shooting, and the murders of Raymond Green Vance, Kelly Loving, Daniel Aston, Derrick Rump, and Ashley Paugh. Rest in love, siblings.
Nikos is a case manager working in public health, specifically the field of harm reduction in San Francisco. A proud queer person living with HIV, they fight for health equity for all. In their free time, they labor organize, advocate for animal rights, and sing.