For days now I’ve seen the news reports about the Chechen concentration camps for gay men go by my news feeds, and all I have been able to do is repost. Once on Twitter I managed to express a few lines of stunned horror. Everything else has been silence, the echoing emotions ringing inside my own heart. I have not known what to say. Not in the sense that there is something important for me to add to some kind of conversation, that I am some kind of expert or have any solution, but in that I do not know how to process this inside my head. The simple concept that this is happening–my brain always wants to say might be happening, wanting so much to cling to doubt–makes me want to retreat into shadow, close the door, shut the blinds.
That’s usually when Depeche Mode starts to sing to me, asking me if I Enjoy the Silence.
This has been my struggle with everything in the news since November. The level of disaster is a blitzkrieg. It’s not possible to RESIST at the level any of us want. Irrespective of personal struggles, it’s too much for one individual. At some point we all retreat into silence, and we must indulge in self care. We must look at kittens and Star Wars trailers and get excited for new books. But there is always that nagging question. How much silence is enough? How much is too much? How much is too little?
What, in the end, can we truly do?
What I have had to do, what I have detested doing, is making choices about where I put what I put my energy into. It horrifies me that there are so many important things going past me and I must say, no, that cause is not the one I can donate to, despite the fact that it is in as much danger as this other one. It’s not where I’m putting my flag. Money and energy are finite elements, and while I can empathize all day long, I can only show up to so many rallies, can only give so many pennies. Unless I stop doing anything but resisting. Unless there is no more silence at all, only noise. And so I don’t let that happen. But I hate it, and it hurts my heart, and it has the effect of making me even quieter, even sadder.
But this new twist, this knife they give us now.
Concentration camps for gay men.
For gay men.
I cannot abide this silence.
I can’t stand it in my heart, in my head. I can’t bear the white, searing knife that hits me every time I read the headline, see that man in every AP photo. I don’t know who he is. A jailer? Victim? Reporter? I can’t read the articles. I can’t get that far. My imagination is too full from half reports. I read something this morning about bottles. Sitting on bottles. This is as bad as the torture of gay men in ISIS, except there it fits with the rest of what horrors they do. That whole organization is a pit of darkness, of our creation and the world’s, and in my head, I can bleed for it, weep, but it doesn’t cut like this.
THERE IS A CONCENTRATION CAMP IN THE WORLD FOR GAY MEN. In a country associated with the one that hacked our election. Which helped ensure a woman who would have acted on this isn’t in command. Which helped enable a Congress who doesn’t give a shit about this. Who won’t make one move to stop it. With an Attorney General who is probably wondering how he can organize his own.
Because this is where we are now. This is where we live. In this shitty, nightmare hellscape existence where we live and laugh like zombies, pretending it is fine while it all dismantles around us. The Christian woman who checks you out at the grocery store is potentially glad and grateful men and women and non-binary freaks like you are being rounded up and tortured. She may hope it happens to you here soon.
She has allies in power who are enabled like never before to make it happen. They just put a monster who hates you on the Supreme Court.
THERE IS A CONCENTRATION CAMP IN THE WORLD FOR GAY MEN.
Keep saying that. God fucking damn, walk up to strangers and remind them. It exists. It’s a thing. We’re walking around and laughing and acting normal and it’s fucking happening. You’re reading this and a man is being tortured because he’s gay or suspected of it. Or because they wanted to put him away and this was a good excuse.
So what’s going to happen here? Is Steve King going to come for me? Or are women getting a pass? Will they pat me on the head because I married a man? Will they lock me up for being sick in the head? Will my writing become dangerous to the state? What if my daughter wasn’t nearly an adult? Would they take her away from me because what I write is pornographic? (It isn’t.)
How’s your silence?
Mine feels like hell, that’s all I know. It tastes like ash. I cry in the shower. I read too many news stories, start to shake and go take an Ativan. I let myself put some politics in Shelter the Sea and then I said it’s time for light, and so for the story I’m writing now, it’s hope and light and wonder, and it’s exactly that. But sometimes it hurts so much to write like that when I feel like this.
I will not be silent on this. I don’t know how to speak yet, but I’m working on it. All I know is Jeff Sessions could fill three camps full of people I care about, and I bet he’d like to try. And I can’t stop him. Some of those people are children. My daughter’s friends. One of them is Damon Suede. I simply think about that one and I want to rend walls and storm DC like Boadicea and make a preemptive strike. Me, it’s hard to say. I’m open about my orientation, but it all depends on what they want, right? If they asked for my silence and the trade was to keep someone I loved safe?
There are concentration camps for gay men, and we’re doing nothing. Our congress is doing nothing. Our leaders do nothing. We do nothing. Unless we do.
Fuck this silence. Carry these men in your hearts. If you’re fighting you’re own battle, if you’re struggling in your own nightmare microcosm, push out, remember there are people fighting with you, bleeding with you–you simply can’t see them. Don’t drown in sorrow, but take them where you go. Remember. Push. Speak. Pull that energy, keep waiting for your moment. Resist in whatever way is right for you, and keep sucking on that light, gathering it, because there is going to come a time when we have enough focus to do something, all of us.
Keep this fight going however you can, however is right for you. Do not die in silence.
As for that bitch at the convenience store, walk on by. You don’t have time for that. She’s a tar pit of decay and rot, and your soul deserves better. You have a better land in store, and she doesn’t get to come to our party.
In the meantime, though, if you need to cry–god knows you do–go ahead.
I’ll be crying with you.