From Orlando to Queer Picnic: Recentring Latinidad in Queer Organising

In Commentary, HOME, LIFE by Daniel Fernando Diaz

Last summer, a friend of mine decided that they would rather have a picnic on June 25th than to go to a Pride event. Upon seeing this on Facebook, we all agreed that we should arrange something DIY and relaxed, with music, food, friends and family. The Facebook event that was created grew from friends, to mutual friends, to suddenly over a thousand people expressing interest. An organising committee – all of us trans people of colour – was hurriedly formed, word of the immensity of the event spread, and, on June 2015, we held our first ever Queer Picnic in a park in south London.

A year later and the focal points of queer conversation, and queer anxieties, have slightly shifted. Exploding in our communities is a visible, almost hysterical sense of injustice: the injustice of fear, and of persecution. The Orlando massacre, wherein 49 queer and trans people were shot dead and 53 injured by a queerphobic gunman, is one tragedy in an ocean of seemingly infinite LGBTQIA+-phobic violence and persecution. But the magnitude of Orlando will continue to pain and haunt queer communities globally for generations to come – like the Admiral Duncan. Like Upstairs Lounge. Like Xalapa and Orizaba. Like what happens in the global south in complete societal silence, with no flags raised at half-mast above government headquarters.

In the rush to finalise our organising for Queer Picnic this year, our hearts and minds have undoubtedly been re-centred onto the importance and fragility of queer spaces and queer sanctuary. For queer and trans people of colour in particular, our views of ourselves and the world we live in have been violently shaken. Orlando was not only a reminder that we are underrepresented, underappreciated, rendered invisible – but that we are constantly and consistently under attack. And a global community that has been the most affected is, without a doubt, mine – the Latinx queer and trans community.

Upon hearing the news that almost all of the 49 dead were of Latin American descent, my fellow London Latinxs and I wept and raged at once, feeling the dreaded whitewashing of the tragedy begin. When we are alive, our Latinidad only matters when sexualised. When we are dead, we symbolise the trauma of millions of white queers who do not look like us, who do not experience the world as we do. The tragedy exploded in layers: the Orlando gunman murdered queers in the biggest mass shooting in US history – and he wiped out a generation of queer Latinx community. Like Trans Day Of Remembrance, it has a huge significance for us and we are acutely aware of the fact that it was a Latinx space that was created, infiltrated, and destroyed.

Prior to the Orlando shooting, I began to plan a space for queer Latinxs to gather at the picnic. Immediately after the tragedy, my queer Latinx friends and I hurriedly planned a vigil that was attended by just over a hundred people, joining us in poetry, prayer and candlelit dance. It has become crucial for my community to dedicate itself to creating more spaces and sanctuaries for ourselves. Burgess Park, where the Picnic is held, is a popular space in a part of the borough of Southwark that belongs to our huge Latin American community. And almost every poster that my friends and I stuck up, from Camberwell to Elephant & Castle, encouraging Latinx queers to come to the picnic has been torn down overnight, and we are still not adequately represented and included in queer events held in south London and beyond.

Our Vigil for our siblings in Orlando.

Queer Picnic will again provide us with a loving space to process and heal, and as a committee we firmly believe in centring those needing the most support. This year there will be Latinxs bringing Latin American food, Latin American music, and Latin American queer visibility and self-love radically claiming space.

And like last year, our Queer Picnic is based on fiercely anti islamophobic and anti racist core values. Needless to say homophobia and transphobia are not cultural, they are societal – which is an incredibly important distinction to maintain, if we are to stamp out racism within our communities. Pride is an incredibly complex phenomenon because when cisheteropatriarchy hates us, it hates all of us: the sex workers, the disabled queers, the women who love women, the trans folk, the elderly, the fat queers, the drag queens, the Black and Brown queers, the intersex queers: we are a blurred threat and we must organise as such. Our swathes of queer rage must envelop and protect each and every one of us.

To find out more about Queer Picnic 2016 visit: here.

Daniel Fernando Diaz

Danny is a consistently underrated London-based university student, writer, activist, poet, DJ and musician. He is an aficionado of critical race theory, porn star martinis, and Shakira’s earliest albums. Consistently underrated, he is a founding member of The London Latinxs, a grassroots collective wherein he is possibly the most obnoxious rum anarchist. He can be found in your local Wetherspoons.

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