The day after the Pulse Nightclub Massacre, I got married. The timing was random coincidence. A mess of circumstances had surprised us just the week prior, and we realized that Monday, June 13th was the only day that our ideal wedding would be possible. So in five short days, we planned our wedding.
No one knew we were about to get married. When we broke the news late on Saturday night, the onrush of support and enthusiasm and unbridled joy was incredible. Little did I know that as that was happening, the patrons of the queer bar in Orlando were being murdered.
When I heard the news on Sunday, I couldn’t believe it. The day before my glorious radical queer wedding, dozens of community members were gunned down for nothing more than dancing. I felt so conflicted. All day, constantly, as I went about preparing, all I could think of was the LGBTQ+ and Latinx lives that were taken.
I was breaking down. Such a heavy grief had hit me, like I have never experienced in response to a mass tragedy. Deep rage I am familiar with. Being sickened, being overwhelmed. But never had I truly grieved, as though I had lost someone of my own. I think that reaction was fairly common.
More Radical Reads: We Honor Their Names: Remembering the Victims of the Pulse Orlando Shooting
Then, all of a sudden, I became afraid. I felt chilled, and part of me was hypervigilant. My thoughts turned to devastation. A deep-seated fear awakened.
It was the spectre of genocide. The phantasm that haunts me every day. And lately its shadow has been growing.
I come from a culture that has suffered genocide. Its traumas have always been part of my psyche. Horrors that I have never experienced firsthand seem as though they are always looming around the corner. I know how to survive, but not how to live. I understand how easily genocide can happen. It’s something a society slips into, blithely ignorant to its fall.
The spectre jumped up, and choked me.
I see us heading down that road. I see the potential genocide that is looming. In many ways, it has already begun. I am one of those likely to be included among many possible targets.
This was a critical moment.
Two paths were laid out before me. The path of fleeing, of fear, and of shame – that is the path of self-hatred. And, the path of my truth, my ethics. The one that is unashamed and radical, that is offensive to the systems that would erase me. I had a choice. A choice to go through with my wedding. A choice to make a statement of self.
As luck would have it, I was headed to another queer celebration that night. It was in honor of a friend – a queer academic and performance artist – who was awarded her doctorate at Stanford that day. I didn’t I realize this, but her dissertation was actually about the politics and performance of queer wedlock. It was delightfully serendipitous, and it felt good to be around such a wonderful group of people.
Toward the end of the night, my friend called on all of us to join her acknowledging the tragedy that had been perpetrated. We grabbed candles and sage and gathered around in their moodlit bedroom. Everybody took a “queer object” from a pile of party hats and other miscellany. We held them, or wore them, and those who were so moved spoke. Then we were to sing.
The song we sang was “Dancing Queen”. It was requested by one of the people present. Through contorted, tearful expressions, they told us that they had lost two friends in the shooting. “I’ve known them since I knew I was queer.” She asked us to sing that song for them, “because they were dancing queens.”
None of us even really knew the words. Only roughly, at best. But the dozen or so of us belted out whatever bits we knew, and collectively we managed cobble together the song. The lyrics of the chorus made my heart soar, even as I felt it breaking, and the look on that person’s face as we stood around them singing was indescribable. It struck me in that moment the transformative power that our community holds, and I left this experience feeling awoken.
My path was clear to me. This wedding, my wedding, had to happen. It had to happen, and it had to be bold, unapologetic, and visible. Had to be, because going through with it was political. Whether we intended it to be or not, to proceed would be radical. In fact, to exist at all is radical when the erasure of your existence is the systemic ideal. Everything we do that embraces our humanity, rather than conforming to the oppressive prescriptions of cisheteropatriarchal white supremacy, is revolutionary.
I knew that I wanted to go through with my small act of revolution, and I knew that I wanted it to be intentional. My politics, my truth, demanded it of me.
So there I was, at 8:00 a.m. the next morning, standing with my partner in front of San Francisco City Hall. The two of us, standing our ground, held up a sign.
“I will live my truth until my dying breath.”
In other words, you can kill me, I will never change. My identity is fundamental. It transcends any influence. I will live the life that my deepest self demands of me, and even if one day you force my identity into hiding, who I am will stay the same. You cannot overcome me.
City Hall was deserted at that hour. The only person present was a worker mutedly sweeping the steps. Scattered across the ground were tokens of the vigil that was held the night before. Burnt out candles, mostly, flowers, posters, postcards of Saint Sebastian. There was even a framed work of calligraphy that said “Love” over and over again in many colors. The man was throwing everything away, so I grabbed the art and took it with me. We also picked up a bouquet. My love wore one of the flowers in her hair during our wedding ceremony.
More Radical Reads: To My LGBTQ Latino Son After Pulse: The Only Grief I feel Is For the World
Later, we set out on our way over the Golden Gate Bridge to Mount Tamalpais, land indigenous to the Coast Miwok. It was my lover and me, their best friend officiating, and my two best friends as witnesses. We went to my favorite place in the world, a spot in the hills near the edge of the water, where almost no human influence is visible. There, in the grasslands, on a cliff, facing the sea, we got married. It was the queerest, most intimate, most humble wedding I could have asked for. And by incredible coincidence – or perhaps it was fate – the words I had written on my poster that morning reappeared at that most iconic moment.
“Cassidy, do you promise to live your truth together, for always with Jenny?”
“Jenny, do you promise to live your truth together, for always with Cassidy?”
It was bliss to fulfill my own prophecy so completely.
We were all caught up in that moment, I think. In the setting, in the love. We were all beaming, laughing, overflowing with joyous energy and the spirit of camaraderie. Before we left, giggling and shouting our pride, the five of us lined up and flashed the ocean. All five of us, queer as fuck, bared our breasts to the Pacific – to the sun, the breeze, and that glorious system of life we are part of.
It was incredible, and incredibly significant. We five are not simply queer. Between us, we are queer, we are trans, we are non-binary. We are Black and Brown and fat and disabled. We are marginalized. We are under attack, actively.
And yet, there we stood. Bold in our abandon and unabashed in our identities. We were connected with one another, and connected with our truths. I don’t know if I will ever engage in such a spiritually potent act of resistance again.
We sang all the way home.
Now I’ve been writing since Sunday, trying to understand the connections. The key, I think, is transformation. The power to turn grief and loss into joy and resilience. We exercised that power. Right down to the flower in my wife’s hair, we transformed mourning into rejoicing. Every one of us has that strength, and we can all amplify it in one another. Our togetherness, our sincerity, and our passion can achieve anything.
This wedding was not simply about love. It was about Queerness, and Transness. About Liberation and Resistance. The right to self-determine our Lives and Identities. We who are marginalized face the possibility of violence every day, yet we live on. Our transcendence is indomitable.
We live in times of ever-increasing violence. We must understand this harsh truth, and act before it’s too late. We will mourn together, but we will also galvanize. To stand our ground in the face of extreme violence is one of the hardest and most important things we must do. To make joy out of suffering is fundamental to revolution. That is our calling now.
Go out. Connect. Take chances. Revel.
You are queer. You are trans. You are of color. You are beautiful, and your radical love will overcome.
I love you.
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[Feature Image:Jenny and partner are standing in front of city hall holding a sign that reads “I will live my truth until my dying breath.” Jenny is wearing a purple button-up shirt and black slack and his partner is wearing a knee-length light pink dress . Source: Jenny Crofton]