Like many in our community, I’ve had a very difficult time processing my feelings in the wake of the attack on Pulse nightclub in Orlando. I am angry, I am numb, I am sad, I am afraid, all in the same moment. I have been taken back to a time in my life, growing up in Mississippi, when I didn’t have words for who I was, but I was certain that what I was, was wrong, was sinful, was broken. I was afraid because I knew that there were so many people out in the world that would hate me if they knew the truth about who I was. Growing up, coming out, and marrying the love of my life, I have discovered that there are so many more people out there who will love me for who I am than those who will reject me, but it’s hard not to see this tragedy as a reminder that it is still a dangerous world for our community.
Yesterday, my husband, his sister, and our friends sat around a laptop watching President Obama’s statement on the shooting, and I was saddened to learn that this is the 14th time he has had to speak in the aftermath of a mass shooting, and the sixth time this year. Gun violence and unfettered access to military grade weapons like the AR-15 style assault rifle used in this attack, is an incredibly important issue. But this tragedy is not just “yet another example” of the dangers of an unregulated industry. This was an act of domestic terrorism specifically orchestrated to intimidate and harm LGBT people.
At the same time, on the other side of the country, another man was apprehended with weapons and explosives on his way to Los Angeles Pride. As The Daily Beast notes, many initial accounts of the Orlando massacre didn’t mention the word “gay” in the headlines, and many pundits have attempted to erase the reality of this hate crime from the narrative. Let it be said here, and again and again, that our community is under attack. I agree with Hillary Clinton that we must not allow political opportunists to seize this moment to “declare war on a religion,” but we must acknowledge that a war is being waged against us by religious extremists, both Christian and Muslim, in this country.
It’s important that politicians and the media acknowledge that this was an anti-LGBT attack. Regardless of what other twisted ideological points of view may have informed his actions, Omar Mateen chose Pulse as his target to send our community a message. The killer’s father told NBC News that he believed his son may have been motivated by seeing two men kissing in the weeks prior to the attack, but insisted that religion had “nothing to do with it.” He has since gone on to clarify that “God will punish those involved in homosexuality,” adding that it’s “not an issue that humans should deal with,” perhaps offering a clue as to the type of rhetoric that may have sparked the hatred in his son’s heart. Meanwhile, notorious antigay Christian pastor Steven Anderson celebrated the “good news” that “there’s 50 less pedophiles in this world” and only added the caveat that the killer should have gone through the “proper channels,” underscoring how extremism is a sickness in no way unique to Islam.
No straight couple in this country has to consider personal safety when deciding whether or not to hold hands or kiss a partner in public. Love and fear should not occupy the same space, but for so many of us they do.
Omar Mateen saw two men kissing and went on a murderous rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando this weekend. The country, our politicians, and the media have denounced his actions, but we allow so many others to get away with lashing out at our community with hateful words and legislation designed to strip us of our rights, like the anti-LGBT bills that recently passed in North Carolina and Mississippi. Amid a serious shortage of blood and a call for donors, the regulations preventing gay men from donating blood to save members of our own community served as a sobering reminder that our struggle for equality is far from over. As long as we are marginalized and discriminated by our own government, there will be those who seek to demonize us, to dehumanize us, and to remove us from society.
Their hate is the same hate that caused this tragedy. Well, we are not afraid of hate. We are not going to stop loving one another because of this attack. We are not going to be intimidated, to be forced into hiding. We are going to love one another openly and proudly. We are going to hold hands in public and kiss and celebrate the history of our community. I am hopeful that this year’s Pride celebrations will be a return to our community’s activist roots and a tribute to the victims of the shooting.
My husband and I attended a vigil at the Stonewall Inn to pay our respects and also to show the world that we will not be intimidated. We owe it to the victims in Orlando and all the others who have been persecuted for being LGBT to be braver and prouder and louder in our advocacy than ever before. We will live our lives openly, we will share our love with the world, and we will not be silenced.
Omar Mateen saw two men kissing and went on a murderous rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando this weekend. We are in mourning as a community, but our spirit will not be defeated (e.g., #twomenkissing on Twitter). Seeing the response to this tragedy, I have never been prouder to be a member of the LGBT community. Our hearts are with Orlando. We love you, and love will always outshine hatred. Love always wins.