Photo by Béatrice Martin
On June 12th, one of the worst shootings in history of the United States occurred at gay nightclub Pulse, in Orlando, Florida. It is heartbreaking to note that this tragedy, unfortunately, coincides with Pride Month. Béatrice Martin, otherwise known as Coeur de Pirate is an indie pop artist from Montréal. The 26-year-old singer, songwriter, and mother felt this traumatic experience particularly deeply. Below is an open letter she wrote:
It’s Sunday morning in Paris. I hop on Twitter, still reeling from the events that took place the day before when a former finalist on The Voice was gunned down while signing autographs. As I see my feed unravel, I realize another mass shooting has taken place in a nightclub. The horror, the disgust, comes swinging like a punch to the stomach. Omar Mateen has killed 49 people in a gay bar. I feel sick, I feel powerless. It is one of the worst mass shootings in American history, fuelled by a plethora of complicated issues: homophobia, possible terrorist group affiliation, domestic terrorism. But the fundamental issue is that an LGBTQ community has been explicitly targeted and murdered.
This was a place where these victims were supposed to feel safe; where they were celebrating their identity and someone had decided to violate that yet again. All of a sudden, I remembered the Paris attacks in November of last year and the paranoia that settled in, that still permeates the country. I was on tour at the time, in France, and had to cancel concerts for the safety of my fans and myself. It’s one thing to say that you have to keep going, but the fear and anxiety still lingers when the places you perform in or feel comfortable going to are attacked.
Come to think of it, the Orlando shootings had another impact, because some families must have learned about a loved one’s true sexuality along with their deaths. The victims were robbed of the choice to come out on their own terms.
In response to the news, social media became full of hashtags like #gaysbreaktheinternet and #queersbreaktheinternet to publicly come out in support of. I thought it was wonderful: why hide who you are? In a world where, in certain countries, being gay is still punishable by death, it’s important to take a stand. The internet is a beautiful place sometimes. That’s when I started feeling like a hypocrite. The whole situation made me wonder if I was considering myself honest. I had been going through many changes as well. As a public figure, I’ve always wondered what my position should be about my private life: what should I say or not say? Sure, it’s my “private” life, I can say whatever I want, but truthfully there is some good in being honest. This is not just for me but for the people that consider me someone who is cool and awesome. At least, I try to be.
My first romantic thoughts were about a girl I knew. I didn’t quite understand it at the time because I was 6 or 7 years old, but I remember the girl’s parents calling my parents to tell them that I was going overboard with the phone calls and the attention. I liked her, I really liked her. I was always reading a lot of manga at that age, specifically Sailor Moon, where lesbian love was celebrated in a subtle way. Additionally, some of the Sailor Scouts dressed up in men’s clothes, and it was awesome. It was enlightening. Sometimes you didn’t know if someone was a girl or a boy. It was beyond what most seven-year-olds were thinking about. That being said, as I grew up and saw how people interacted, it became clear to me that it was considered weird to like someone from the same sex. One of my first crushes was a girl and the second she heard about it, she started ignoring me. For anyone, that’s traumatizing. I resented the fact that liking someone of the same sex was not widely accepted. I settled for a heterosexual lifestyle because I was scared of rejection. After years of being awkward both in bed and in relationships, I settled down, buried all of my feelings deep inside, had a kid, and thought things were going to be alright.
I was completely wrong. Whatever I had repressed all those years came rushing back the second after I gave birth. I started disassociating. Whenever I had any form of contact with anyone, I would feel used and helpless. So I tried to detach myself from whatever was going on, physically and mentally. As someone that was realizing all of this later in life, I felt like a complete fraud. It is clear that with the Orlando attack homophobia is still very much present and a concern. Even with the internet, the open debates on horrible bills like North Carolina’s HB2 that are being passed in this day and age it is still fact that loving the person that you want to love comes with a price.
That is why I’m coming out as queer today; because I can no longer be scared of what people might think about me. I can’t be scared that someone will stop listening to my music, or that parents might not want their kids listening to me because of the fact that I want to love whoever I want to love. I’m coming out for my daughter who needs to learn that love knows no race, religion, gender or orientation. Even though the family that she knew in the very beginning won’t be the same, she deserves all of the love that she needs or wants. I’m coming out for the victims that lost their lives because they wanted to celebrate who they truly were.
It isn’t easy for me to write any of this, but I know that some good can come out of it. I’m sure that if you’re not in a big city, and that you feel scared to come to terms with who you really are, what happened in Orlando can scare you to become the person you were meant to be. This is my message to you, as someone that was terrified as well, that I found solace in my difference.
Béatrice Martin is a singer and songwriter from Montreal. Follow her on Twitter