In the week since the bloody and obscene disruption in Orlando's Pulse nightclub challenged the spirit of hope the LGBTQ* community has so determinedly cultivated for decades, many beautiful words have been burnt into computer screens, offerings to the sacred dance floor. These eulogies have been personal and political, lauding club life as a source of personal awakening, activism and community building. The distant thump of dance music has run through all of these accounts. Different varieties of beats bounced against each other — the salsa and reggaeton played at Pulse that night; the house music that helped people cope with the decimation wrought by AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s; the disco that first shaped the physical experience of post-Stonewall liberation, putting bodies together to sweat and cry out in joy.
To honor that music, we've asked eleven writers who've realized essential elements of themselves on such dance floors to share the songs that meant the most to them within that process. This is a playlist for Pulse, for the 49 dead and 53 wounded who each had their own song, the one that pulled him or her out of her perch at the bar, grinning and shaking that thing, that body that holds the soul; grasping the hand of a friend or lover while looking for a new smile to catch out, to keep growing the circle until it felt like it extended everywhere.
"People talk about liberation as if it's some kind of permanent state, as if you get liberated and that's it, you get some rights and that's it, you get some acknowledgment and that's it, happy now? But you're going back down into the muck of it every day; this world constricts," wrote the novelist Justin Torres in his own remembrance of such moments. The Pulse tragedy reasserted the cruel fact that liberation is a fragile right in a society still making its fitful trudge toward genuine tolerance. The mourning process reminds those who love to dance together of something else, too: Liberation is a practice, an insistently loving one, advanced every time people gather to shake off judgment and open their arms to life. The songs enable the practice. They are the conduits through which a superordinary current travels. To reclaim the religious language too often used to justify hate: The songs are the mantras, the beads dancers use when they pray. We present this playlist as a form of witness and of participating in the practice. Be free.