It has been a couple of weeks since Omar Mateen went on a shooting spree that killed 49 men and women, mostly LGBT Latinxs, and tragically made the Pulse night club in Orlando the most famous LGBT bar since the Stonewall Inn. In the days after June 12, millions of words were written and published which described or explained or condemned this event; grief-stricken families and friends buried or cremated their loved ones; survivors recovered at home or in hospitals; communities held memorials; and politicians acted like, well, politicians. As with previous mass shootings, politicos from all sides discussed ways and means of preventing future killings without accomplishing anything. Conservatives screamed about “radical Islam” and progressives pleaded for gun control while, in the real world, in Orlando or elsewhere, there are spouses, partners, children, parents, siblings and friends left behind who will now have to learn to live without their loved ones, because they are no longer with them.
Conservatives like Donald Trump condemned the Pulse massacre as the work of radical Muslims. Though Mateen, who I keep mentioning even though I hate to give him more posthumous infamy than he already has (we should remember the victims instead), pledged allegiance to ISIS between murders, there is no proof that he had any connection to that or any other terrorist group. ISIS or not, the Pulse massacre was basically one big hate crime, the mass murder of innocent people at an LGBT club who were brutally killed just because they were LGBT or supportive allies. There was an online discussion of whether or not Mateen was himself a closeted gay, in turmoil over his sexuality. Closet or not, the fact remains that Mateen hated us and killed as many of us as he could, before he himself was taken down by law enforcement. Those politicians who describe the Orlando killing as a “terrorist” attack on an “Orlando club,” without mentioning the fact that Pulse is an LGBT club and the victims were LGBT or LGBT-friendly, do themselves and us a great disservice. Texas Congressman Pete Sessions (Rep.) described Pulse as a “Latin club,” ignoring the fact that many of us are both Latinx and LGBT. Politicians who deny the LGBT component of the Pulse massacre do so because of their own anti-LGBT records and opinions. Rick Scott and Pam Bondi and Marco Rubio are not our friends, no matter what they say.
Before the Pulse massacre, the largest killing of gay people took place on June 24, 1973, at the Up Stairs Lounge in New Orleans, La. There an arsonist started a fire that killed 32 people, mostly gay men and many of them members of the local chapter [church affiliate] of the Metropolitan Community Church. Though MCC founder Rev. Troy Perry and other gay activists gave the victims their due, the largely homophobic world outside ignored them, except for a few jerks who made tasteless comments like “let the faggots burn.” This type of behavior would not be tolerated 43 years later, when more LGBT people have come out of their closets and more non-LGBT people have learned to know and love at least one LGBT family member, friend or loved one. Of course, there will always be assholes among us, like the members of the Westboro Baptist Church who, as expected, showed up to protest the funerals of the massacre victims. Radical Christians like Pastor Roger Jimenez of Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento, Calif., went so far as to praise the Orlando massacre which reminds us, as if we need a reminder, that homophobic bigotry and hatred is not exclusive to any one religion.
The Pulse massacre happened at the beginning of LGBT Pride Month and in the wake of a wave of Pride celebrations across the globe. Some of our people are now reluctant to attend Pride events, fearing that they and their communities might also be targeted by another mad murderer. Though a copycat killer is always a sad possibility, we must not let fear keep us from doing what we do so well: living and loving one another in a community with other LGBT people and our allies. If we surrender to fear we will be giving the murderer a posthumous victory and gladden the hearts of Muslim and Christian and Jewish zealots who want us to die. Like Orlando, we must be strong, and continue to love one another, for we are greater than any of our enemies.