I wish I didn’t have to write this post. I really, really wish I didn’t have to. But I don’t feel that I can ignore it, either, especially since my blog posts are devoted to LGBTQ+ topics this month. I woke up today and saw the news about the shooting at the gay club in Orlando and immediately crawled back into bed, where I lay for a while trying to pretend that this would all just go away if I wished hard enough. I’ve been crying off and on all day. My thoughts are a mess right now, but I’ll try to sort them out as best I can because I don’t know what else to do. Writing is how I process… well, everything.
I texted my friend from Florida because I couldn’t remember where they lived and, although they’re underage, I know that doesn’t stop a lot of LGBTQ+ teens from going to clubs and bars anyway, because they’re one of the few places where people like us can go. They are safe spaces, or at least they’re meant to be.
When I say, “I don’t feel safe around straight people” or “I don’t feel comfortable having a ton of straight friends,” this is why. I’m never quite sure who I can trust, or who is going to stick up for me – I’ve noticed that people are being noticeably quieter about this shooting than they were about the one in Paris last fall, for instance. My LGBTQ+ friends, and some of their parents/siblings/relatives, have posted quite a bit about it on social media, but it seems as though a lot of people just don’t care. This is the biggest mass shooting in US history, and yet we have to fight to get the news to stop glossing over the fact that it was, in fact, a hate crime.
I just know that some straight person will find their way onto this post and comment, “Not ALL straight people!” Yes. I know. Believe me, I am aware of this. I’ve thought about this subject so much more than you have because it’s kind of essential to my survival? Straight people, as a whole, frighten me.
When homophobic rhetoric is spouted and few to no straight people – so-called straight “allies” – speak out against it, it makes people think homophobia is OK. I need you to understand why I don’t trust straight people. I need you to prioritize that over your inclination to protest, “But not ALL straight people are like that!” I need you to speak up for us when we’re living and not just when we’re dying.
I am so tired of the phrase “just happens to be gay.” I was tired of it before all this happened, and I’m even more tired of it now. Please stop saying that the victims just happened to be gay, as if it was by accident that the shooter went to a gay bar during Pride month. He didn’t just wander in off the street because he felt like shooting up any random place. Please listen to us when we say that there is a long history of anti-LGBTQ+ terrorism. It’s the reason Pride was started: The Stonewall Riots kicked off our modern-day movement.
And while we’re at it, please, please, please stop the Islamophobic rhetoric. The shooter’s dad has said that his son hated LGBTQ+ people. This isn’t about Islam, or even about religion in general. Yes, religion can be homophobic, but the two are not inextricably linked. It makes me sick to hear about Republican government officials with incredibly anti-gay track records suddenly begin to talk about praying for the victims, and using this moment as an excuse to point the finger at Muslims. STOP. Please don’t turn this into a false story of us vs. them. LGBTQ+ Muslims do exist.
And to every author, TV scriptwriter, et cetera who defends burying their gay characters as an “authorial choice” used to “further the plot,” this is exactly why we protest those narrative choices. They’re hurtful. Everyone loves escapism, and perhaps no one more than the LGBTQ+ community: We can’t get away from this violence in real life or in fiction. This isn’t just a matter of being sad because my favorite character died; this is a matter of seeing that pattern over and over and over again, and then seeing this, and now not wanting to go to Pride.
Iowa City Pride is tiny in comparison to those in other, bigger cities, but now I’m anxious about even going. And I hate that. I’ve already heard that people are being advised to make plans for where to meet up in case of an emergency, and to use the buddy system, and to tell their friends and family that they love them – in case they don’t see them again. We shouldn’t have to head off to Pride as though we’re going to war. This isn’t even the only anti-LGBTQ+ hate crime of the day: Earlier today, a man was arrested for intending to harm people at LA Pride.
To add insult to injury, gay and bisexual men are banned from donating blood to any hospital nationwide due to a federal law prohibiting donations from men who have had sex with men in the past year. (This law also includes trans women.) They can’t help, even if they want to.
This has been a terrifying day and it’s perfectly OK if you need to step away from social media for the sake of your mental health. This shooting must not be brushed under the rug and labeled as something that it is not – as something that has absolutely nothing to do with sexual orientation, for instance – but at the same time, even the endlessly positive posts of my friends became too much. That’s OK. Take a break if you need it. Stay safe. I love you.