After Orlando: Overcoming Hate Through the Radical Act of Dancing

The Austin Vigil for Orlando outside Austin's gay clubs, June 6th, 2016. © J.T. Fales

The Austin Vigil for Orlando outside Austin’s gay clubs, June 6th, 2016. © J.T. Fales

In Orlando, Florida, this weekend, hundreds of people went out to a local gay nightclub called Pulse. They did it for the same reasons we all do: to enjoy great music, to spend time with friends, to express themselves, to meet new people, to feel welcome, to find lovers, to laugh, to sing, to dance. And for those same reasons, dozens of these beautiful individuals were brutally maimed and murdered.

The queer community is beside itself in pain today. The electronic music community should be too.  

The terrorist’s message is clear: We should be afraid and ashamed to express ourselves so freely with others. But our message is stronger: that there is no place in the world we should feel more safe and proud to be.

Employees from Pulse Nightclub celebrate Pride in 2013.

The Queens of Pulse Nightclub at Come Out With Pride 2013. Photo by Jeff Kern from Orlando. CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

To my straight, cisgendered, sympathetic friends, who may not feel personally victimized by this violence, I want you to realize that the attack on Pulse was not just an attack on the gay community. It was an attack on the dance music community.

To be clear, many communities were targeted and devastated by this attack: Gays,

Boyfriends Juan Guerrero and Christopher Leinonen. Juan was killed at Pulse, and Christopher is unaccounted for. Christopher (Drew) is a member of the EDC Gays group on Facebook.

Boyfriends Juan Guerrero and Christopher Leinonen. Juan was killed at Pulse, and Christopher is unaccounted for. Christopher (Drew) is a member of the EDC Gays group on Facebook.

Hispanics , Floridians, young people, tourists, Americans, and more. The loss and pain of the many groups, many individuals, who have been psychologically wounded by this violence is real and worthy of empathy and compassion. As a gay raver, two communities that form the basis of my identity were targeted by this attack. As so many of my friends grieve and rage on social media, I want to use this space to address how we can process and overcome what was done to our brothers and sisters Orlando, and to our sense of safety and security in our public gatherings.

Raves are queer events.

First, let me say that our dance music community, our EDM community, is real. It is an identity. The motto of this blog is “One beat, much love.” Though we dance to many genres of music from trance to house to hardstyle to drum and bass, we are united by our respect for each other, our love of music, and our love of dancing with others. We believe in the power of music to make us happy and express our emotions. We believe in the right of everyone to express themselves, through speech, appearance, and action. We believe in Peace. In Love. In Unity. In Respect.

These values don’t come from nowhere. They come from the scene the music was born in. The queer scene. The sweaty warehouses of Chicago, Detroit, New York, where gay people, brown people, outcasts, and outsiders, gathered together in solidarity to celebrate life with each other. The same scene that lives on today in LGBTQ nightclubs, bars, and establishments across the country and world. The same scene that was pierced with bullets at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

This is why raves are inherently queer events.  Just like pride festivals, they preach radical affirmation and acceptance of all. They say: Come as you are. Come as who you are. Come as who you need to be. We accept you. They are a political act of resistance to a culture that raises us to feel shame when we do not conform to arbitrary standards of what is proper and normal.

And dancing itself is a radical act. By coming together in public to move our bodies and embrace each other, we manifest our own values and create the world we wish to live in.

After Orlando, we are in pieces. We mourn. We grieve. We look for meaning. We ask, what do we do now? What can we do now?

As a community, there is one thing we can and must continue to do to resist and overcome the terrorism perpetrated against us in Orlando.

We dance.

Pride flags outside Austin's gay clubs, June 6th, 2016. © J.T. Fales

Pride flags outside Austin’s gay clubs, June 6th, 2016. © J.T. Fales

To dance is to celebrate life, sexuality, freedom, identity. I personally believe it is the literal purpose of life: To be present with friends, in a safe space, engaged, stimulated, loved, is all any of us can ever hope for.

The attack in Orlando was a truly horrific act of evil, on a scale we have hardly ever experienced. I do not mean to diminish what occurred.

But as we search for meaning from this event, I want us all to remember a few things. Our community is made of millions of loving, well-intentioned people, who enable us to be the most authentic versions of ourselves.

We pity the attacker, and those who would do us harm. While they may loom large in our minds, for a time, especially on a week like this one, we must remember that they are the ones who are afraid of the lives that we live. They are motivated by fear, by disgust. They are literally animated by the values that we reject when we come together in self-acceptance to display and enjoy our bodies together.

As we millions dance every night, we make the world a better place. As we bring others into our community, we spread and strengthen our values. As we continue to do this in the face of threats and attacks, we drown out the empty words of hate and overcome them with compassion.

We cannot prevent every attack on our community. But one terrible attack cannot and will not destroy our values of radical acceptance. It reminds us of the beautiful world we are building with each embrace, each kiss, each sway of our hips.

We will continue to live our truth out loud, together. Tonight, for Orlando, we dance.

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