Orlando's Intersections: May Our Differences Stretch Us to Revolutionary Love

by Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza

This post was originally posted on Sojourners online: https://sojo.net/articles/orlandos-intersections-may-our-differences-stretch-us-revolutionary-love

It was the last day of the Philly Trans Health Conference, the day of the Philly Pride Parade. It was my first time at the conference, and as a non-binary trans Latin@, I felt safe, finally, and had a growing awareness that my body was safely contained with other trans and trans-positive folks.

That safety was fractured when I woke to the news of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla. As I lay there in shock — many of my LGBTQ siblings, the majority of them Latin@, were murdered, taken from our community — mí gente, I cried!

And as a non-binary trans Latin@, I knew that my own response would be an important one. I have always been vocal about the constellation of differences that are found in relationship relative to race, religion, and sexuality. This shooting has been named one of the worst mass shootings in U.S history, and we cannot ignore the overlapping intersections of race, religion, politics, gender, and sexuality.

And while we need to be cautious of erecting a hierarchy of oppressions — the overwhelming bigotry that the LGBTQ community faces in an age of Islamophobia — we must also lean into this tragic rupture. Our human community is deeply fractured by the very differences that threaten our flourishing.

The overlapping intersections that are present in this tragedy are important to acknowledge. We all need to recognize the role of Christian supremacy, the logic of white supremacy, the presence of Islamophobia, and anti-trans rhetoric, including anti-LGBT rhetoric, that has been perpetuated for years. This event combines all of these dynamics.

Our call and response needs to be rooted in compassion for the one who lost love, Omar Mateen. This is not a call to excuse hate, or condone violence — it is a call from the depths of my being, one that exposes the reality that I am just as vulnerable to losing love as he was.

Every day, I choose to be committed to the politics of radical difference that is expressed in queer relationality, trans-positivity, and the everydayness of radical social change. This commitment is rooted in an attention to affirming our world’s religious pluralism and in the work to build sustainable communities that will practice the everyday work of justice-making.

These are times of melancholia, an age of institutionalized violence. The words of queer theorist José Esteban Muñoz help us reframe what is at hand. Muñoz writes:

“I have proposed a different understanding of melancholia that does not see it as a pathology or as a self-absorbed mood that inhibits activism. Rather, it is a mechanism that helps us (re)construct identity and take our dead with us to the various battles we must wage in their names — and in our names.”

This moment frames our call to be unified in our radical differences, to extol deep postures of welcome to those who are not of us, so that we may survive the very real struggle of trying to be human with one another.

Being unified in our differences does not suggest a singularity of identity or privilege the normalization of one identity over another. We must find earnest ways to harness our imagination to live into a moral excellence that is at root the active affirmation of the differences of one another. This is seen in affirming Muslim identities, queer identities, Christian identities, and Latin@ identities simultaneously.

We have to stretch with the differences that are pushing us into new contours of relationality, that motivate revolutionary love.