Yesterday, in the early hours of a new day, a tragedy occurred in Orlando, Florida. It’s mainstream news. An individual walked into a gay club called Pulse with a handgun and an automatic weapon and opened fire on anyone who happened to be near him. He didn’t care who the people were. He simply wanted to kill anyone there because they were gay.
I’m feeling pretty impacted by this incident which is the most deadly mass shooting in US history. The LGBT community has faced so many trials and obstacles in our fight for equality. Even though we’ve been granted equality and gained our legal equal rights, we’ve so far to go. There are people in the world who are filled with hatred towards us and towards anyone different then themselves.
The people who were murdered last night are gone for no other reason but their sexual orientation. These are the brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, daughters, and sons who matter a great deal to someone. It sickens me that an individual would feel empowered and emboldened to take the life of someone. This situation breaks my heart and I’ve shed many tears over the course of the last day.
Alfred and I have taken many trips to Orlando. I can’t help but think that it could have happened to us. It is a terrifying thought. We, as an LGBT community, use our bars, night clubs, community centers, and other facilities as safe zones. You see, we may have legal equality but there is still much reason to feel unsafe at times. This man walked into a space which serves as a sanctuary, a place of celebration…and he opened fire. He instantaneously defiled this sanctuary and stole the lives of fifty of our LGBT brothers and sisters while harming fifty-three more.
There are many who don’t understand how a bar could be considered a place of sanctuary. Those who don’t understand are lucky. They’ve never feared for their safety on account of who they are or whom they love.
The victims woke up yesterday and went about their day probably looking forward to a night of fun and celebration…it is Pride Month after all. They went out with expectations of a jubilant night only to have their lives ended for no reason.
This is a tragedy of great magnitude. It’s something we should not forget and it is all the more reason to show up to a Pride parade near you and just be. Be loud. Be colorful. Be L-G-B-T-Q-I-A.
Most importantly be proud.
On June 28,1969, just after 3 am, police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City. It was the match that lit the powder keg. The gay community had grown weary of police targeting and raiding gay bars and clubs. As onlookers watched employees and others the anger stirred. When three drag queens and a lesbian were forced into custody, the situation exploded as spectators began to throw bottles at the police officers causing the officers to take cover inside the building. Eventually back-up arrived but the protest spilled into neighboring street. For several days, demonstrations occurred in New York.
This was the very first time a major protest took place on behalf of LGBT Rights.
We’ve inherited that legacy from our predecessors. Our community is a strong, resilient community and we will overcome this. Hatred will not hold us back. Many of us are wondering how this could happen. In fact, I texted my husband (who is away on a business trip) and asked “Why do people hate us so much?” I’m not really sure how to answer that question. The answer is complicated and unfair. But I do know one thing. We cannot meet acts of hatred with more hatred.
This is not a Muslim issue. Muslims do not endorse the action of this murderer. This is not an attack on America. Those people were not murdered for being American. In fact, many were not American. They were murdered for being LGBT…because they were queer.
This was an attack on our community by someone filled with hate towards our kind.
When your Republican representatives and governors discuss this incident, hold them accountable. Many of our representatives have passed or are attempting to pass laws to demoralize and denigrate LGBT citizens. Many of our representatives have accepted funding from organization whose only goal is to do the same. Force your representative to acknowledge the LGBT people as LGBT people. These are not victims with identity. These are our brothers and sisters and it is an affront to their memory if we allow our representatives to erase their identity from the record.
We must demonstrate the love which so many other communities seem incapable of demonstrating to us. As Martin Luther King Jr said “Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.” This Pride season, show up to your parade. Wear your rainbow flags, prance in heels, sport your leather…express your identity as a member of the LGBTQIA community in any way you feel comfortable. There is no shame in who you are. Stand tall and stand proud. Be sure to tell people you love them.
This is how we fight the hatred aimed at us from every angle. This is how we honor those members of our community whose lives were ended abruptly and far too soon for no good reason. We honor them with love. We honor them by celebrating their lives and our vibrant, open, and accepting community. As long as we allow our hearts to be filled with love, the darkness of hatred can never win.