by Kyle Ashby
With multiple sources reporting that Omar Mateen frequented Pulse nightclub and suffered from mental illness and internalized homophobia leading up to the shooting, I feel obligated to write a concise history of my queer life so you can understand two things: why I didn’t become Omar and why this shooting has affected me so greatly. Keep in mind so many circumstances and events contributed to me being alive and grieving today as an out queer man that the following can only be presented as a glimpse of the truth, a myopic description of self-determination. I present a monochromatic thread so that you can follow the unraveling edge to its black terminus: today, my third night of almost no sleep and emotional unease. I lay awake knowing that I hate Omar Mateen for the choices he made, for the pain he caused, for the lives he ruined, but learning that he may be part of my queer family means that compassion is redirecting my hate to the conglomerate of American culture that made both of our lives so different.
(Source: Canadian2006 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0/r GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.
Our own Cliff Leek has recently
talked about the tension, struggles and challenges of being an ally to movements of the marginalized. Those of us located on the ‘privilege’ side of different axes of inequality and oppression (like race, class and gender) face the challenge of how to become (and stay) active and effective allies without reinforcing the very inequalities we are trying to fight, and trying to speak truth to power without claiming to speak for
the movements we are aligned with. As Mia McKenzie points out in her critique of the term ‘ally’
: “actions count; labels don’t”. In other words: We don’t become ‘allies’ just by some act of will or by declaring us as such. Instead, being
an ally means a continuous process of becoming
one. This call for action and constant reflection has, of course, implications for those of us who are male-identified but teach about gender in the classroom. We face unique challenges that we need to find pedagogical answers to if we are to stay true our feminist and anti-racist commitments.