I’ve been putting off writing a blog post since I woke up yesterday morning to the news about what happened in Orlando. I’ve gone through the gambit of emotions – shock, dismay, anger, grief. Now morning is here again and I’ve had the chance to sleep on it and things are slowly going back to normal. I wonder, though, if they ever really can – especially for members of the LGBT community, the world has become suddenly a scarier place. We got marriage equality last summer and this summer, we’re getting shot.
Hate crimes have always taken place in small numbers, but persecution on such a grand scale is something of the past in the Western world. Or so I thought. There are other places in this world you can’t hold hands or kiss in public, as an openly queer person, without being punished by the law. And while my heart breaks today as it always has for the LGBT community in places where they must hide out of fear, my heart now breaks anew for LGBT people in my own country.
The shooter was, according to his father, enraged after seeing two men kissing in Miami. What kind of horrific culture of homophobia has been fostered in our own backyards that such a thing – seeing two men kissing – could set off enough anger in a human being that he would go into a gay club and kill 50 people?
Of course, it isn’t that simple. It isn’t just the two men he saw that drove him to do this. It could be any number of things – it could be the open bitter hatred for the LGBT community that gets expressed every day by radical Christians in our country, or public figures on the right, or even just every day people who make homophobic comments on the Internet and in person. All of these groups have been extra loud lately amidst the “bathroom debate,” which has gone on far too long and become far too big of a deal. People have said awful things and I’m sure I don’t need to highlight them here, because everyone’s been seeing and hearing nothing but opinions on either side of the debate. But the fact that it’s given lots of people the opportunity to emerge from the woodwork spewing hate has created a crackling negative energy that surrounds our whole country these days.
There are lots of things that we could do in the wake of this tragedy. I remember that after Sandy Hook, I thought things would really change. I had faith in our country and our lawmakers. I had faith in everyone who called themselves Americans. I had faith that the slaughter of innocent children would force everyone to unite and make a significant change. I couldn’t imagine a world where a man walks into a building with a gun, shoots 20 children, and nothing changes.
So in the wake of that tragedy, we decorated our Christmases with conversations about mental health, violent video games, and gun control. And when the New Year came around, we all went back to school and work and moved on.
Some states changed things. Most didn’t.
It sickens me to my core, as it should sicken you, that there are people in this country who would rather protect their freedom to own a gun – an outdated freedom, one that no one in our free country needs – than keep the children of the United States safe.
So here’s what will happen: we’ll talk about the shooter’s religion. We’ll talk about his mental health. We’ll wonder if he played violent video games. We’ll talk about homophobia. And in a few days, weeks, months, all of the above, there’ll be another shooting. And another. And another.
In this time of grief and mourning, as we in the LGBT community try to find our voices and words to say, we must remember that it is important above all to speak. We must not allow the national dialogue to stray away from the issues at the heart of what happened. We must be loud and constant and tell our lawmakers, neighbors, the whole world that the United States will not tolerate such acts of terrorism and homophobia. The year is 2016. We cannot be a country that allows for these tragedies to happen again, and again, and again. We must put pressure on the levee until it breaks, and let our freedom, our lives, our voices as a community pour out like water. We must fill the country with our protest, our heart, and say that we will not be killed, we will not allow anyone to be killed.
This should not have happened. But how we move forward from here can save thousands, millions of American lives on our own soil.
Sign petitions. Join protests. Call, write, tweet, and email your local politicians. When the election comes, fill Washington DC with people who might work toward greater gun control. Don’t sit down. Never sit down until the children of this country, the minorities of this country, every single person who has ever walked into a movie theater, a shopping mall, a school building, a college campus, a gay club in this country is safe.
Visit http://everytown.org/act/ for some information on what you can do to join the fight.