An outpouring of thoughts, prayers and tears have been shed for the victims and survivors of the Orlando massacre . It’s been more than a week since we heard the terrible, tragic news about the murders that occurred at Pulse by a shooter who had a history of domestic abuse, worked as a security guard, and obtained assault weapons — legal in Florida, banned in other states even though the FBI investigated him twice.
Does that make it a “terrorist attack?” This rampage was directed specifically at LGBTQ persons on Latin Night at Pulse. Because he mentioned ISIS while he was creating carnage, some are encouraging us to blame Muslims and adopt the “them and us” mentality which only serves to further divide humanity. I refuse to participate in more hate.
We learned that he previously went to Pulse and gay social/dating sites. It may be true, then, that he felt the same oppression felt by all LGBTQ people, from religious zealots and ignorant people who promote hate and fear. Perhaps his own internalized homophobia drove him to commit this stone-cold, premeditated massacre. What we know for sure is that he alone targeted and slaughtered 49 and he physically injured 53 innocents and he forever emotionally scarred all LGBTQ persons and their allies.
Later in the week, I felt encouraged by heartwarming stories of survivors, surrounded by loving families showing support. But then I remembered not all of us are so fortunate to be loved and accepted by our family of origin. This is why LGBTQ people make our own families, why we call each other “family” why we find spaces to be around other LGBTQ people, why we have pride festivals and places like Prism. Because it is a very core human need to have places where we belong and can celebrate true identity and be with people who are like us and respect us. It is important to have places where we can just BE. Because June 12 keeps us aware that it’s not always safe to be LGBT or Q in America.
In speaking about the attack at Pulse, our governor would not acknowledge or even say the words LGBT until finally, on Wednesday, he uttered the words “shooting at the gay bar.” And the Florida attorney general flat lied about her record on CNN when she was called out for her ferocious fight to keep marriage equality from our state. Did that help to fuel and justify the shooter’s hate?
Muslims don’t hold the copyright on hate; I watched so-called Christian pastors in California and Arizona rejoice in our pain, preaching hate, saying “too bad he didn’t get them all” and “our government should line them up and execute them.” They would demonize the purest of all human needs and emotions: love. The need for and expression of love.
But I thank God, Buddha, Allah and the Universe because those who would marginalize, vilify and even kill us, are infinitely outnumbered by legions of rational and kindhearted people who have united to show their support and love.
A carpenter drove 1,200 miles to Orlando to install crosses, one for each victim, with a message: “Quit judging and start loving.” Tens of thousands of people have attended vigils worldwide, and millions of dollars have been raised for the victims and survivors.
In our time of grieving for the victims, for ourselves, for what our community as whole has lost, we must take heart, we must resolve to continue to work for a world that recognizes each of us as valuable humans who want only to be able to live our lives loving the persons we love without fear or shrinking from expressing ourselves.
His father said he did this because he saw two men kissing. I live for the day that his motivation is understood by no one. I ask you to join me to honor the memory of 49 lost lives and 53 wounded sisters and brothers by resolving that we will not only survive, but thrive, that we will stand together strong, because love must win.
Valerie Fisher is the president of the Board of Directors of Prism Youth Initiative, an organization dedicated to supporting, affirming, encouraging, and empowering the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth ages 13-23 of Manatee County.