Monday night, I attended the vigil/Stonewall Democrat-sponsored rally that sprawled the blocks surrounding the historic Stonewall Inn to process and mourn Saturday night’s massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, with my NYC queer community.
I want to first thank the organizers of this event for reading the names of every identified victim of the mass shooting at the end of our 90 minutes spent in community together. However — I am angry, as are many in my queer family — about a number of things that happened at the event which felt more like a political rally than a vigil.
But the most sour taste I can’t seem to wash out of my mouth is the introduction of straight pop star Nick Jonas as one of the evening’s speakers (he was only one of a few straight speakers).
For months now, Jonas has engaged in what is colloquially referred to as “queerbaiting” — marketing himself, and his sex appeal, to gay men during the lead up to the release of his new album which came out last Friday.
For perspective, Jonas and his PR team have spent quite a bit of energy heavily marketing the pop star to gay men. Since the breakup of The Jonas Brothers, Jonas has repeatedly appeared at gay nightclubs and made headlines for exposing his body. He claimed “I can’t say if I have or haven’t” experimented sexually with other men, he’s insinuated that he has engaged in gay sex because of a role played on television, he’s been “gay and shirtless” on multiple TV shows, he’s appeared on the cover of Out Magazine alongside an extensive interview, he’s been called “The King of Twinks” by Vice and claimed he watches Mariah Carey on Home Shopping network “at least once a week.”
This all raises the question: Why is Jonas, a pop artist with a body heavily associated with masculinity and a body typically desired by gay men in the West pandering so heavily to the gay population?
I don’t want to draw too many conclusions about Jonas’ and his team’s intention with this aggressive “queerbaiting.” But one thing is certain: this is not a time for straight allies to take up space — especially if you’re an ally who just dropped an album three days ago.
Now is a time when we, as a community, are mourning the loss of 49 queer and trans brothers and sisters, many of them people of color. The media and public are largely already trying to erase the sexuality and gender identity of the victims. Seeing a straight, white man on stage addressing the mourning queer community only intensified the pain of our grief.
Granted, organizers’ hearts were probably in the right place. They probably thought bringing a pop star on stage would increase the level of press and attention the rally received. But as much as the queer community appreciates — and needs — the support of straight allies at horrific, painful times, this was not a vigil for Jonas.
So what can straight allies do to help the queer community as we mourn? Show your support on social media. Direct fanbases to places where they can donate and help raise money for the families of the victims — like here. Utilize the massive platform you already have to talk to the mainstream public about how this was a homophobic, transphobic and racist attack against the queer Latinx community. Educate people who don’t already understand nuances of this massacre.
But please, straight allies, let us have our space. Let us have the grief that is specifically ours. Of course, we welcomed straight people at the vigil, but to listen, not to speak. Let us hold each other, look one another in the eyes and tell each other it’s going to be OK. Because unless you’ve ever had to internalize queer pain, there is really no way for you to know exactly how this feels, or what we need to hear.
Donate the help the victims of the Orlando massacre below.