TW: death, loss. I talk about being triggered in the second paragraph.
Today marks the second day of the Week of Action, and it was a rough day. I’m not going to say it wasn’t. I knew the year being what it is in addition to coming forward with my own story had the potential to heighten the emotional impact this year, but I didn’t expect it to hit me so early. It’s only day two and I’ve got five (six, actually) to go.
The Week of Action is a difficult event. This doesn’t mean I hate doing it, or that I shouldn’t do it, or that I regret doing it, but it’s a difficult event to push through. At its core, it’s all about death and loss – it’s absolutely about action and activism, but it’s about action and activism that stems from death and loss. 105 deaths we can’t undo no matter how much work we do in the present. It’s a hard event with lots of triggers as someone who was a victim of anti-gay violence and could be on that list if things had turned out slightly differently. For me, the Week of Action is a combination of days where I’m too triggered to function normally and days where I feel I could take on the world because I am so driven by these stories. At the end of the Week, I always feel like I have grown and learned from my experiences, regardless of whether the emotions I experienced were positive or negative. All of this pushes me forward, so I will push through and continue to move forward.
Though the second day was hard, I can say there were positives. It never fails that I am presented with opportunities to speak out during the Week of Action – I like to say that situations are placed in front of me during this time so I can make well on my word to take action. The most frustrating and difficult people who aren’t per say homophobic but seem to believe we exist in a fantasy land – those are the kinds of people I encountered today. One girl thought the GSA was “pointless” and that we shouldn’t meet at the school because being gay is 100% accepted; another boy thought all problems gay people faced would be solved in ten years time. On any other day, I would ignore their ignorance, but I felt compelled to speak out, and I did. In addition, I am dying to get back to work on the Stories Project – I’ve rediscovered my motivation after a few months of minimal work on it.
Today’s theme was orange, which symbolizes healing, and there were fifteen people I thought best represented this theme. The fifteen individuals memorialized today are, in no particular order: Tyler Clementi, Tiffany Gooden, Bobby Griffith, Rita Hester, Tyra Hunter, Samantha Johnson, Tyli’a Mack, Brandy Martell, Nizah Morris, Thanh Nguyen, Phumeza Nkolonzi, Phillip Parker, Matthew Shepard, Juana Vega, and Nicholas West.
When the world lost Tyler Clementi, we lost a musician whose talent and passion when he picked up the violin made the world stop until he put it down.
When the world lost Samantha Johnson, we lost her fighting spirit. Even in the face of pushback and opposition from bullies, she was heavily involved in setting up her school’s Gay-Straight Alliance.
When the world lost Tyli’a Mack, we lost the bright smile and personality she carried to match. She was the kind of person who was nothing but true to herself.
When the world lost Juana Vega, we lost the vibrant and valuable spirit with which she lived her life and used to propel her forward.
When the world lost Tiffany Gooden, we lost a life that might not have fit any traditional box – but one that would have been well-lived all the same.
When the world lost Bobby Griffith, we lost a person who cared genuinely for his fellow man. As a child he had a habit of running up to complete strangers and giving them a big hug.
When the world lost Rita Hester, we lost her vivaciousness and spirit for which she is remembered by those who knew her the best.
When the world lost Tyra Hunter, we lost a life that was bright and promising, and all of the amazing things she could have done for the trans community of the times to come.
When the world lost Brandy Martell, we lost a woman who used her love of people to help her community and those who resided in it.
When the world lost Nizah Morris, we lost a woman who handled all aspects of herself and her life with dignity, grace, and poise.
When the world lost Thanh Nguyen, we lost a man who came to the US to find freedom, and could have settled into his own American dream had he lived to find it.
When the world lost Phumeza Nkolonzi, we lost a person who with a deep capacity to love and be loved, who was open about who she was and how she wanted to live.
When the world lost Phillip Parker, we lost all of the potential the life of a fourteen-year-old holds. We lost his future, his dreams, his aspirations.
When the world lost Matthew Shepard, we lost a man who could have been at the forefront of all these movements that have come about in his death. We lost a leader of our community and the ideas he would have contributed to it.
When the world lost Nicholas West, we lost his contributions to the world, and the interesting life he might have led had he the chance to.