In the last two days, hundreds of thousands, potentially millions, of people have used the hashtags #loveislove and #lovewins. And a disproportionate amount of my anger at a prejudiced and brutal world is directed at the rainbow heart icon affixed to all of those tweets.
I don’t understand how we can claim love has won when queer people are being gunned down and waking up in fear. Or when Muslims, especially queer Muslims, also face the coming weeks with fear, as the hatred of Omar Mateen is weaponised and turned on them.
Most of all, I wonder what that little rainbow heart would look like to me if I had lost a friend, a family member, a lover in Pulse. At best, those masses of #LoveWins would be rendered incomprehensible by grief. At worst, they would seem unbearably cruel.
And what does love have to do with it anyway? These hashtags have been resurrected from when the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage a right nationwide and carelessly re-purposed.
While queer clubs can be loving spaces, reducing them to that is reducing queer people to clichés and hallmark cards.
We go to queer clubs to get drunk, to get laid, to dance, to gossip, to kiss, to watch drag, to dress in drag, to watch Eurovision, to be creative and outrageous and flamboyant and ourselves.
And that’s all good. We are entitled to do all those things without getting killed.
The language of marriage equality campaigns — love is love, love wins, Yes Equality — served a very specific purpose: to reach a particular legal milestone considered important by huge numbers of queer people. While many would argue that it worked, that language was not without harm.
It was euphemistic, vague, drawn from very conservative modes of political speech. It was deliberately abstract, designed to gloss over all the rich clamour of queer experience.
That language has seen its day. It’s time for queer people to stop trying to prove our worth by insisting that everything we do is about love and community, airbrushing out the the anger, the radicalism, the sex.
More importantly, it’s time for straight people to stop expecting that from us.
These sanitised narratives elide the fact that violent queerphobes like Mateen, those driven to murder by so-called gay panic, don’t target queer people because of who they love, but because of who and how they fuck.
Violent queerphobes find gender transgressive sex repulsive, they believe that people who engage in it are less human as a result, and that they can legitimately be harmed or killed.
It’s a testament to how passive and depoliticised queer people have become — or perhaps how passive heterosexual society expects us to be — that even as we are brutalised we are still treated, and behave, like the Western world’s favourite rights-seeking teddy bears.
Of course, I understand that we all process fear and grief differently. I understand the need to find defiance and hope in times as dark and frightening as this. I admire all the people in London, in Dublin and around the world who yesterday stood in solidarity with Orlando.
But the chirpy rhetoric and imagery of marriage equality, the corporate and crass Twitter icon, are simply not appropriate here.
49 people went out to party and were murdered. For them, love will never win.