I’m sure we all haven’t been living under a rock for the past week to know what happened in Orlando, Florida. Just before Pulse, a gay nightclub was closing at 2am on Sunday morning, Omar Mateen entered with an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle and let loose in a barrage that lasted as one of the survivors said, a song’s length of time. It was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history to date, 49 dead and 53 injured.
So how can something go from the best night of your life to the worst night of your life in a mere matter of seconds? There are so many frustrations we have felt in the wake of this tragic event. So many questions that we all want answers to.
As the grim news continues to come in from Orlando, the death toll reaches an historic number, and as the lines at blood banks continues to grow, there is but one phrase that spins in my head: “angry at two men kissing.” Allegedly during a recent trip to Miami, Omar Mateen was confronted with the sight of two men kissing one another, in front of his child. This wasn’t just a terrorist attack on innocent civilians, this was a homophobic attack. A hate crime. This was terrorism and it was terrorism targeted at the LGBT community.
To be terrorised by your own culture, a culture that in 2016 will still indulge one’s anger at two men kissing in public is an outrage in itself. Everyone who walked through those doors of the Pulse club showed up pre-terrorised. 49 survived a lifetime of cultural terrorism, and then lost their lives in an instant because someone was “angry at two men kissing”.
This attack has left the LGBT community devastated. But in the face of adversity it has also left them as resilient and stronger than ever. Stronger than terror and stronger than homophobia. Pro-gun politicians in America who have introduced hundreds of anti-LGBT bills in this calendar year, offered their thoughts and prayers but never once mentioned homophobia.
The world needs to acknowledge how some people are more hated than others. There is a difference between gunning random people down and targeting a subset of people. To deny that hate, or to subsume it into another narrative, denies the roots it has in society. To deny that hurt, denies an entire LGBT community.
If this villain wanted to kill American citizens he could have done so anywhere. As the media automatically reach for an Islamic terrorist narrative, we must examine the facts and the motivation behind the attack. If your father says you were disgusted by men kissing, if your co-worker says you hated gay people, if you buy a gun and walk into a gay club and murder gay people then that’s about as homophobic as you can get. It is one that resonates within LGBT communities not only in America, but around the world.
Countries like ours have been brought up on the idea that it is okay to not always agree on everything. That we are tolerant, and free thinking and have an acceptance of one another, and believing or not in what we choose or who we choose to be. If I become a parent one day, what would I tell my children? What do I tell them about the events in Orlando one day? What do I tell them if they are gay? We need a lesson in tolerance. Supporting each others differences and worrying less about our own. Get back to debate and free thinking and away from the notion that if someone doesn’t live the way you want them to live, you just buy a gun and kill them.
Whether you’re gay, lesbian, man, woman, religious, black, white, or disabled, we shouldn’t be scared of embracing who we are. We fought for the right to stand up for ourselves, speak our minds and live our lives without fear of being punished or mocked or bullied online by someone we don’t know.
This was just one bad guy here. 49 good people and one bad guy. There will always be more good than evil in this world. In just a few short hours after the Orlando event, hundreds of people flocked to donate blood for the victims. It is a gentle reminder that that bad guy, that terrorist arsehole, is vastly outnumbered here.
And for all LGBT communities around the world, seeing other people gunned down is akin to seeing your own countrymen and women killed. Without a doubt there is empathy for all people who suffer anywhere, but the fact is, events like this resonate much more acutely when those things that happen to the people are just like you, in places just like the ones you go to. It was an act of homophobic mass murder, an act of terror, and an indictment of the lack of gun control in America.
LGBT communities can turn any riot into a movement of love. In this moment it is important to not become nationalistic, or prejudiced, or vengeful. The American cycle of violence should not be perpetuated. Rather, this nightmare should be interrupted by the creative, loving and tolerant members of the community there are, who know well how to look death in the eye and still imagine a new, better world to live in.
June 12 will forever be a day to march in pride and celebration, that this tragedy, devastating, heartbreaking and frightening as it is, will be the moment to find the best within one another and believe there will be change for everyone.
“I have decided to stick with love, hate is too great a burden to bear”