The media is awash in coverage of the terrorism angle of this tragedy. But to understand the impact of the shootings in Orlando, one must understand what gay bars really mean, especially in conservative areas.
To live and work as a member of the LGBTQ population in a conservative area means to not hold hands in public. It means to learn how to alter your pronouns on Monday morning so you don’t accidentally out yourself at the water cooler and lose your job. It means renting a two-bedroom apartment, even if you only need one.
Day in and day out, you spend countless hours of energy containing yourself. Keeping who you are hidden, until you get to a safe space. Nine times out of 10, that safe space is a bar. Often those bars have really vague names and minimum signage. Better safe than sorry. No need to draw attention.
This is the trickle-down hate effect. Many of this country's lawmakers have spent the last year spending our tax dollars to push anti-LGBTQ legislation through their respective state governments. One after another, laws aimed to de-humanize the LGBTQ community were brought forth under the guise of “religious freedom.” There will be many right-wing Christians who will jump to the front and say, “The shooter was Muslim!”
The man who pulled the trigger might have identified as Muslim, and a perversion of Islam even so, but Christian rhetoric really killed 50 people on Sunday — the fruit of the last two years of conservative vitriol lays on an Orlando dance floor this morning, covered in innocent blood.
This week, the LGBTQ community will rally around itself. We excel at taking care of one another. We are accustomed to making our own way. Take for example, the gay and bi men who faced the AIDS epidemic with many a lesbian by their side, nursing them when no one else would. We have holidays with our chosen families after our blood relatives disown us. We pass through life while sharing secret side-glances with strangers, looking out for each other when we can.
June 12, 2016 will go down as the day we stopped accepting our furtive lives. We're told to keep our lives private and then we're killed in our private space? Americans can't expect things to go back to the way they were. Muslim beliefs, Christian beliefs, Atheist non-beliefs — whatever justification is made for homophobia just doesn't fly anymore.
Not sure how to tell your kid why two men are holding hands? Not our problem. Don’t like that Target allows us to relieve our bladders in peace? Suck it up. Two women in love, showing affection for one another and now you have to have a weird moment of silence with your mother-in-law? Tough shit.
We have spent decades attempting to let religious homophobes and transphobes evolve, but they're taking too long and we're losing too much. I’m sure this will be hard for you to hear, but our existence doesn’t need to be sanctioned by you.
Who is the “you” I speak of? You know who you are. So do we.
KRISTEN BECKER is a writer and stand-up comedian. Follow her on Twitter.