As I’m sure everyone knows by now, June 12, 2016 saw the worst mass shooting take place on American soil. A man opened fire with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in a Gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida killing 49 people and injuring another 53. It has been dubbed a hate crime and a terrorist attack, due to the man’s allegiance to ISIS. It took me a while to find the words to express what I was feeling as an openly Gay man, an American and most importantly, a human in this world.
First and foremost, my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this despicable act, and their families.
In the wake of the events of that horrific night, so many conversations have been started regarding how somebody with this person’s background was allowed a permit to carry such a weapon, why any person would need a weapon of this caliber, why weapons like this are being sold at all, what “the right to bear arms” means in The Constitution, and gun laws are being brought into the spotlight. As much as I applaud these efforts and conversations (and fully agree with and support), I think there is a bigger discussion to be had here. This shooting, and just about every mass shooting, is deeply rooted in hate. In this instance, the shooter was set off after seeing two men kiss in a park. Call me naïve, but in my opinion, it really wouldn’t matter how many guns a person owned if they didn’t actually use them. And in at least this instance, these weapons are being used to wipe out people based off of whom they choose to sleep with. So I think the bigger question here is where is this hate coming from? And what is being done about that?
I grew up in a community that believes that being Gay is a sin, and excommunicates people who are. I have personally experienced being slighted in this community, and by members of my own family in the name of this community. I will never forget sitting at my Father’s funeral with my siblings and relatives, and hearing the Rabbi give his condolences to, and name, my Father’s three children, and I was not one of them. To this day, my family is still very much a part of it, and I’ve been told that I need to understand and accept that this is how the community is.
Unfortunately, this is the case in many religious homes, regardless of the faith involved. Hate is taught under the guise of religion, and I learned this in school growing up. Imagine growing up in that world and being called a Faggot by first grade and being told you would die of AIDS by second. I’ve even had one of my teachers in high school say in front of the class some guys like girls, and then there’s Jack, who likes Michael Jackson. My response to him was that although I do love to grab my crotch and say fuck a lot, I’m more into Madonna. I got kicked out of class, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is the seeds of hate were planted, and in turn, many Gay people in my community stay in the closet, or worse, harm themselves. And kids are taught from a young age that being Gay is unacceptable, or, to be more precise, an abomination.
Again, call me naïve, but I always thought that most religions believed in the concept of Love your neighbor, as you love yourself, not Love your neighbor, unless they are Gay, Black, Asian or something different than you. It’s amazing to me that religion, which talks about love and not judging others, is used to promote hate. Last I checked, it was G-d who will be judging me, and nobody on this planet is without sin. Case in point, the teacher that made that comment about me was later indicted for inappropriate behavior with minors. But that’s not my tale to tell.
Putting religion to the side for a moment, let’s talk about the country we live in. Of course, I’m talking about America, land of equality, unless you are Gay. You know, the country where this mass shooting took place? I think people forget that up until one year ago, Gays were not allowed to marry in every state. They could pay taxes and die for their country (so long as they didn’t publicly acknowledge their sexuality), but not get married, because according to some, it would destroy the values of marriage. In fact, in the very state where this shooting took place, I’m pretty sure Gays are still not allowed to adopt children. Florida would rather a kid be parentless than have them live with a loving Gay person, let alone a Gay couple. And to add insult to injury, with all the calls out there for blood donations after the shooting, Gay people couldn’t even donate because of an archaic rule made back in the 80’s based on an unrealistic fear that all Gays are promiscuous and have HIV. Because only Gay people had, and continue to have, unprotected sex? I guess that explains all those children in Florida needing to be adopted… all those GAY men and women having unprotected sex.
Can’t you just feel the love, cause I know I certainly do. I feel the love every time a child turns to their parent on the bus and points at me saying I sound like a girl, while the parent just chuckles. Or idiots heckling and calling me names on the street. I felt the love when my ex-husband was not invited to a family event because the community came first. I felt the love when I was told that my marriage was not the same as my siblings. I even felt the love when a man beat the shit out of and raped me, after leaving a Gay bar with a friend. In fact, I’m getting all verklempt from all this love.
Please don’t get me wrong, I think America is a much better place to live than, say, a country where they throw Gay people off of buildings and stone them. And America has made great strides in favor of the Gay community, but clearly we are nowhere where we need to be. Otherwise a shooting of this magnitude would not have happened, and there wouldn’t be people saying how the victims deserved to be killed. And don’t even get me started on the hypocrisy of some of these politicians all of a sudden rallying for and supporting the LGBTQ community. You know the same ones that used their power to fight against marriage equality, amongst other Gay rights?
Back at Thanksgiving, I had a conversation regarding the way Gays are treated in America, and when I used the killing of Matthew Shepherd and the beating of Kevin Aviance outside a New York nightclub during Pride Week as examples of how Gays are treated in America, I was told I didn’t know what I was talking about or that those situations didn’t count. So does what happened in Orlando count? Is there a cap on how many people need to be beaten or killed for us to be able to have this conversation? Do I need to have security detail every time I run out to get milk at the corner store for me to know what I’m talking about? Or do I just need protection when I hold hands with, or dare to kiss the man I love in public? Tell me… when will enough be enough?
So what’s the solution? Is it teaching about the Gay Rights movement and tolerance in schools, right along with the Civil Rights and Feminist movement (both movements I might add are still struggling in America as well)? Or maybe it’s moving past the notion that LGBTQ are all “alternative” lifestyles, since the reality is we live our lives the same way our Straight counterparts do? Is it stopping our kids when they start saying inappropriate things about a person that sounds or looks different? Or maybe shifting our focus from something stupid like what bathroom a person uses, and work on something more useful, like the economy or gun control? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s all of the above… PLUS MORE!!!
Whatever the solution may be, I think it’s safe for me to say that there’s a better chance at making fetch happen than me just accepting things. I will never accept the views of a community that believes I don’t exist because of who I love. And in my opinion, people that think I should, or who put the community before blood, just perpetuate the hate. It’s just not ok, and maybe those people need to take a look within themselves. There’s no place for that nonsense in my life. For me, intolerance will never be accepted, and I will continue to be vocal on this subject, even if that means dealing with the backlash.
Unfortunately, this conversation does not just stop with Homophobia. It can be had regarding equal rights for women, how minorities are treated in America, blanket generalizations and stereotypes, body shaming, self hate within the Gay (and other) communities, and even the stupid shit spewing out of a certain Republican Presidential candidate. At the end of the day, we are all human beings in this world. As cliché as it sounds, we actually ARE the world. We don’t have to be best friends or agree with each other, but at the very least, there needs to be a mutual respect. Without that respect, the world cannot function, and situations like Orlando will continue, and get worse. Love is love, regardless of the people involved, or the color of their skin, or their religious backgrounds. And when all is said and done, and you’re on your deathbed, what people will remember most is how you treated them and what you contributed to the world. Isn’t that the basic concept of humanity?
Have I said too much? Actually there is one more thing I can think of to say to you. They say opinions are like assholes because everybody has one. As naïve as it comes off at times, this one is mine. I encourage you all to read all the opinions, as loving or as hateful as they may be. Opinions are made to provoke thought. They are an eye opener to the world we live in, and the society that we, as humans, are all a part of.
For me, the solution is a no-brainer.
I stand for humanity and compassion, in Orlando, and around the world. Where do you stand?