Simon Williamson, columnist with Georgia Voice

Simon Williamson: The daily lives of queer people

I am from a pretty violent country. South Africa is a bit New Orleans-ish, in that crime is terrible in certain places, and the middle classes who live in much safer areas than the mean think that the problem is disproportionately theirs to bear.

If you’re LGBTQIA+, that sort of paranoia might sound somewhat familiar. While our safety might not always be at risk, we do need to be constantly aware of the reactions our mere presence might provoke; that the way we live our lives is something many other people feel the need to react to.

With a mass shooting happening almost as often as racial epithets are shat through Donald Trump’s voice box, and an absence of legislative will to change any laws in any fashion, greater society is becoming more paranoid. The media in the United States is a malignant pusher of news in one’s daily life, and I, along with many others, am admittedly beginning to feel a little paranoid when in public places. The San Bernardino shooting wasn’t even the first mass shooting in the United States that day, but the earlier one only made local news because not enough people had bullets put into them.

Sadly, there aren’t really any places you can go to escape the dangers of guns in the United States. Even in places where the rules are strict, like New York and Chicago, it is easy to hop over a state border and, provided you pass a background check (it is a real thing), come back to your own state with a weapon. Indiana happens to be on the doorstep of Chicago. Pennsylvania is on the doorsteps of both New Jersey and New York. And, of course, there is a black market for weapons. If you want a weapon, procuring one legally or illegally is easier than scoring with insecure twinks after 1 a.m.

Because the Second Amendment is a real thing, you aren’t ever going to get rid of people’s guns. So the other argument proffered is that everyone should have a gun for his or her own protection. So let’s say, for example, that carrying a gun becomes as common as student loan debt—can you imagine the consequences of wider society carrying guns all the time, combined with all the drunkenness and road rage required for living a normal Atlanta life?

A society in which every person carries a gun would be abounding with paranoia. Can you even consider what it would be like being on edge all the time about the number of guns around you?

Well, that’s a lot like being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. While, of course, the comparison falls short when it comes to the deadliness of guns and America’s love for them, feeling constantly worried about your surroundings is a very normal thing for our people to feel. For every gay person who puts a picture of their spouse or partner up at work, a decision has to be made about the potential consequences of doing so, which can range from annoying questions to outright hostility.

Being gay in a straight environment—or, Beyoncé forbid, a transgender person in a cisgender environment—can be incredibly dangerous.

The growing, gnawing fear that people have about gun violence is the sort of alert those in the LGBTQIA+ family are on all the time.