The killer’s own father said that his son had been ranting for weeks about how angry he was to see gay men kissing each other in public. He spent weeks using a fake profile on a gay hook-up app quizzing gay men to determine which gay club would have the biggest crowd and which night of the week it would be busiest. It was an anti-gay hate crime. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t also terrorism, because that’s what all hate crimes are: the intent is to instill terror in the targeted community by singling out individuals for bashing or worse.
I wrote shortly after the massacre to explain why this crime hit me so hard even though I live on the other side of the continent and don’t personally know anyone killed. My whole life I’ve lived with the fear and knowledge that there are people who hate queers enough to attack me and kill me, but I haven’t often had to think of that hatred being a danger to those around me. The killer’s father isn’t the only one who talked about what had enraged his son. Others who knew the killer have talked about his increasingly angry outbursts about gay people. Seeing two men kiss made him go kill 49 people in a busy gay nightclub during Pride month.
It’s one thing to know that bigots hate me enough to kill me. It’s much worse to be shown that some hate me enough to commit a massacre.
And it’s upsetting to know that some people who claim to be friends—and relatives who have said they love me—are unable or unwilling to understand that this killer’s actions are a symptom of society’s messed up attitudes about queer people and about guns.
That is what people who claim this is just one lone nut, or that it isn’t really about queer people, or that there is nothing society can do that will make these crimes less likely to happen are actually saying.
One year later, it’s still a gut punch.
It leaves one wondering what we can do.
- There are organizations you can donate to: Scissor Sisters and MDNR honor Pulse victims with ‘Swerlk’ lyric video: Proceeds from the song’s sales and royalties will be donated to the Contigo Fund which, “offers financial support to organizations working to heal, educate and empower LGBTQ and Latinx individuals, immigrants and people of color, as well as those working to end all forms of bigotry in Central Florida”.
- We can attend memorials: Thousands Expected At Pulse Memorial Events In Orlando.
- You can commit to acts of kindness and urge others to: Elected officials on Monday announced that June 12 officially would be dedicated as “Orlando United Day — A Day of Love and Kindness.”.
- We can remember the victims: Orlando Sentinel Marks One-Year Anniversary of Pulse Nightclub Massacre: In print, a special 16-page section; online, free access for all.
- We can try to help the healing process: Faces of healing, one year after the Pulse Nightclub massacre.
Mostly, please just recognize that this was a hate crime, fueled by our society’s abhorrence of gay people and helped by our irrational obsession with prioritizing gun rights over human rights. It wasn’t an act of anti-american terrorism. It wasn’t merely the actions of one disturbed individual. It is a symptom of very American dysfunction. It is a hate crime, and all hate crimes are meant to instill terror in the hearts of the targeted community. If you are a straight person who still insists this wasn’t an anti-gay hate crime, please answer this question honestly: was this crime a gut punch of terror for you? Was it?
I have been relieved that most of the coverage of this crime focused on the victims. Too often the coverage of mass shootings focus so much on the perpetrator that it’s as if he’s a hero, instead of a despicable excuse for a human being. I think I have managed, despite writing about this incident many times, never mention to the name of the killer. Instead, we need to honor the memories of those slain: Orlando nightclub shooting: Read about the victims.
Edited to Add: Several people have written very eloquently about the day:
Keep that in mind as you read these news stories:
Gee, what has all of these men so angry at gay men, lesbians, and women?
Also, remember that it isn’t just one study from this year. Here are a few more: Homophobic Men Most Aroused by Gay Male Porn for 2011, and Study Reveals Homophobic Men Are, In Fact, More Likely To Be Gay from 2014, and Scientific American: Scientific American: Homophobes Might Be Hidden Homosexuals – A new analysis of implicit bias and explicit sexual orientation statements may help to explain the underpinnings of anti-gay bullying and hate crimes from 2012, and Homophobia correlated with Homosexual Arousal from 2010, and let’s not forget from 1996 Is Homophobia Associated with Sexual Arousal? (spoiler: yes), and… and…
Draw your own conclusions.
One last thing, the new study that I cited at the beginning? It also showed that test subjects who showed, on a pre-study survey, a higher degree of Precarious Manhood Beliefs, and then were exposed to information that affirmed that a man being able to see things from a women’s perspective and a woman being able to see things from a man’s perspective were both good things? They were less likely to verbally bash women or queers. Which seems to back up the notion that all this misogyny and homophobia within the culture is causing harm. Gee, who’d a thunk?
It boggles my mind that someone can claim to be a follower of Jesus while spewing such hate. I mean, seriously, being overjoyed at murder? Looking forward to committing murder with impunity yourself?
What boggles even more is that people who claim to believe in the man who said “love thy neighbor as you love thyself” will follow these hatemongers and proclaim them great faith leaders.
We have people like Bryan Fischer of American Family Radio saying things like ‘The Real Brownshirts Are In The Homosexual Movement’. That’s pretty rich coming from a guy who was removed from one of this jobs at the American Family Association because his anti-semitic and anti-muslim comments raised a bit of an uproar too close to a Republican fundraising event in 2015.
Then there’s Scott Lively Scott Lively: Trump Must Ban Gays From Intelligence Agencies Because They’re Conspiring Against Him. Lively is currently involved in a lawsuit for crimes against humanity (I kid you not), because he gave encouragement and material assistance to get Uganda to pass kill-the-gay laws. And that’s some of the least insane evil stuff he’s been involved in. But he’s the president of Abiding Truth Ministries, so he is, of course, hailed as a Christian leader.I’m not sure what has prompted Manning to turn on Trump again this week. There’s probably a new sermon up on his youtube channel explaining it, but I can’t deal with listening to any more of his hate and craziness. I have to admit that I kind of like the nickname “Tribulation Trump” for Donald. But I’m sure that Manning will flip-flop back to loving Donald again, he just needs to do something hateful enough that Manning recognizes him as a fellow devil, again.
There are even more poorly disguised devils in the news, of course. Yesterday a lot of people, particularly right-leaning news and blogging folks, were being shocked, shocked to learn that Milo Yiannopoulos has argued in favor of adults having sexual relationship with underage teen-agers. He has specifically insisted that this is not only good, but tried to claim that it is normal in the homosexual community. All of which is BS, but really shouldn’t be a shock to anyone. It’s not as if he hasn’t said this sort of thing many times before. Nor is it at all inconsistent with his other attitudes.
So let’s unpack that a little. In the past, Milo has espoused a lot of undeniably racist opinions. He has orchestrated harassment campaigns against women, particularly women of color. He has encouraged violence against trans people. He has excused actual calls for genocide from some of his neo-nazi friends. He has advocated so-called “peaceful ethnic cleansing.” He has previously made sexual references to teen age boys. But it is only when he has specifically advocated for adult men having sexual relationships with 13-year-old boys that the Republican party, the organizers of the Conservative Political Action Conference, his fellow writers & editors at Breitbart, Bill Maher, and Simon & Schuster are objecting? In other words, all of those people and institutions are okay with racism, misogyny, transphobia, hate crimes, and genocide.
Let me repeat that: the Republican party, conservatives who organize CPAC, Breitbart writers & editors, Bill Maher, and the publishing house of Simon & Schuster don’t just turn a blind eye, they happily endorsed racism, misogyny, transphobia, hate crimes, and genocide. When people show you who they are you should believe them.
Also, it seems a lot of people are easily fooled by someone who says outrageous things when those outrageous things are attacks on people they dislike.
In other words, there are a lot of public figures and pseudo-celebrities and wannabe pundits out there who are advocating neo-Nazi opinions and neo-Nazi policies, but we aren’t allowed to call them Nazi. Because that’s rude. Or it’s hyperbole. Or something.
Never mind that these proponents of opinions and policies that exactly (sometimes word-for-word) repeat actual neo-Nazi publications and demands Have previously called any woman who objected to their sexist pronouncements “feminazis.” Or that any of us who called out their racist or misogynist or homophobic statements were called “PC-nazis.” And then if we objected to that, they would make arguments about why the word “nazi” isn’t actually an insult. When it’s used back at them, suddenly we’re the ones who have crossed a line.
Some of these guys have demanded apologies, and even gotten retractions from some publications, insisting that just because they have said things like “In response to concerns from white voters that they’re going to go extinct, the response of the Establishment—the conservative Establishment—has been to openly welcome that extinction” or “Behind every racist joke is a scientific fact” or “some degree of separation between races is necessary for a culture to be preserved” that it is ridiculous to think that means they’re white nationalists or neo-nazis. We’re the bad guys for even suggesting such a thing! They aren’t bad guys for advocating forced deportment or relocation or so-called “peaceful ethnic cleansing3”
Milo Yiannopoulos, for instance, has called for at least the separation of people by race, ethnicity, and religion. He has also spouted various racist, misogynist, and transphobic beliefs. He has sent hordes of his internet followers to harass women with rape threats and racist attacks. He has said all sorts of awful and false things about trans people and has encouraged his fans to attack and harass them. And not just in general, he has handed out private address and contact information of specific trans people and suggested that someone should teach them some manners.
Yiannopoulos then defends himself by insisting that he’s simply stating an opinion. And besides, he’s gay, so how could he possibly be a bigot? Not only is he gay, but he’s white gay man who only has sex with black men, so he can’t possibly be racist (never might that racial fetishization is deeply entwined with racial hatred). And by the way, he doesn’t endorse all the white nationalist policies of a bunch of his friends (even though he frequently makes some of the same arguments they do), he just thinks they’re interesting people. So it’s wrong to call him a white nationalist or a neo-nazi of a nazi sympathizer.
He’s an editor of a news site which describes itself as the platform of the alt-right. The alt-right is a term coined by white supremacist Richard Spencer in order to make white supremacy seem more like just another political option4. He argues racial opinions of white nationalist are reasonable–not just that they have the right to hold the racist opinions, but that those statements are fact rather than opinion. He attacks people on the basis of their religion, ethnicity, or gender identity. He defends not just the right of the neo-Nazis and white nationalist to hold their opinions, but he actively campaigns to write those opinions into law. One day those same white nationalists who currently enjoy having his support may well turn on him, just as the historical Nazis eventually rounded up their own gay members and executed or imprisoned them. But right now he’s a white nationalist and a nazi-apologist. That’s a fact.
Then there are the people who angrily argue that they aren’t defending neo-nazis or white supremacists just because they are telling people like me to shut up about them. Seriously. “You must let them advocate genocide without calling them on it” isn’t defending them? Of course, the most recent person to send me that message personally also slipped in two bigoted dog whistles5 before I blocked him
Then, of course, there are the free speech arguments. Okay, I’m an advocate for free speech. You have the right to your opinion, and you have the right to express it. But I, as a private citizen, am under no obligation to give you a platform. I am under no obligation to sit quietly and listen. I am certainly under no obligation to sit quietly and listen while you advocate policies that will cost me my job, my home, and my health care. I’m allowed to argue. I’m allowed to boycott. I’m allowed to call you a neo-nazi. I’m allowed to shun and shame people who enable your advocacy of hate.Disagreement is not censorship. Boycotting is not censorship. Shunning is not censorship. Calling you a bigot or similar is not censorship. Calling you an idiot is not censorship. Staging a protest when you come to my community to preach your hate is not censorship. Boycotting businesses that give you a platform to preach your hate is not censorship. Repeating word-for-word things you say (particularly if you go on TV or stand up on a stage to address supporters) is not censorship nor misrepresenting you. Pointing out which of your statements are factually wrong is not censorship. Even going so far as to call you a liar (particularly when it has been documented numerous times that you repeat false information again and again) is not censorship.
Free speech means you can express your opinions if you like. Free speech does not mean that those opinions have to be taken seriously, or treated reverently, or accepted without argument.
To circle back to the original point, if you:
- repeat neo-nazi and white supremacist slogans,
- advocate the same programs of racial, ethnic, religious, misogynist, and/or homophobic discrimination and oppression as neo-nazis and white supremacists,
- attack anyone who disagrees with neo-nazi and white supremacist proposals or hate speech,
- thank the avowed neo-nazis and white surpremacists when they repeat your words and deeds and hold you up as an example on their white supremacist video blogs, news sites, and/or conferences,
- are publicly and unapologetically friends with neo-nazis and white supremacists after they have repeatedly (often in your presence) called for the extermination of people based on their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity,
then you are a neo-nazi. And no one should apologize for calling you a bigot, a nazi, a white nationalist, a white supremacist, or a nazi sympathizer. Because you are all of those things. And that is a fact.
1. Godwin’s Law was first articulated by author and attorney Mike Godwin: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1.” In other words, if an argument goes on long enough, someone will eventually evoke the horrors of World War II, the Holocaust, et cetera. While it is phrased as if it were a law of mathematics, it’s really just an adage based on observation2. As Godwin himself has stated, it was intended as a tool to remind people not to resort to unnecessary hyperbole. He also wanted people to not trivialize the Holocaust. He has pointed out on several occassion that sometimes such comparisons are quite apt.
2. Godwin’s Law gets abused a lot. People have interpreted it to mean that if someone ever makes a comparison to Hitler, naziism, et cetera, that this immediately invalidates all of their arguments. Part of this comes from rules that were established on some Usenet groups in the 1990s by which if a thread reached the Hitler comparison, the thread would be ended. Note that this was a convention that some people chose to adopt. Godwin’s Law is not an actual law nor does it articulate anything that even approaches a logical fallacy.
3. This oxymoronic term is deployed frequently and unironically by actual neo-Nazis such as Richard Spencer, the president of a literal white supremacist “think tank” among other things. He has also called for non-peaceful ethnic cleansing, for example: “humanity doesn’t need the Black man, and having concluded that, we must decide how efficiently to dispose of them.”
4. There some subjects upon which people can legitimately disagree. Details of tax policy, for instance. But when one side is literally calling for the mass murder of the other side (or mass incarceration, or denial of fundamental human rights), then we are no longer talking about a disagreement.
5. Dog-whistle: coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup. For instance, in American politics the phrase “states’ rights” seems to be a mere reference to the Constitutions delineation of some powers and rights belonging the states (and other to the people or to the federal government), but signaled the politician’s commitment to segregation and institutionalized racism. “Real Americans” is frequently used to refer to conservative white Christians. Similarly, calls to “cut entitlements” are understood by the target audience to mean that “undeserving minorities” will be kicked off public assistance (when it fact it means that everyone will lose their benefits in order to funnel more tax money to the uber-rich and corporations).6
6. The dog-whistles in question in this particular exchange made it clear the guy arguing with me was both anti-semitic and homophobic. I thanked him for identifying himself just before blocking him.
Three months ago, an angry homophobe walked into an Orlando, Florida gay night club and murdered 49 people, wounding 53 more. It was a Saturday night during Queer Pride month, and it was specifically Latinx Night at that club. The homophobe had spent time in the days before the massacre staking out the location. He had created a fake profile on a gay hook up app before that for the express purpose (based on the recovered chats) of finding out what the busiest gay nightclubs were in his community1. It was a planned hate crime.
The homophobe decided to buy an assault rifle to kill as many queers as he could after seeing two men kissing in public. The shooter’s own father was shocked at how angry his son had become when he saw that.
Three months later, reading about this still feels like a punch in my gut. I’m an out queer man who grew up in redneck communities during the 60s and 70s. I have always had the moment of fear any time I am out in public with my husband any time we show any affection. I have a specific incident where I know my husband was threatened with violence after we exchanged a quick kiss when I dropped him off at a bus stop years ago. It’s a dread calculation I find myself making whenever we are out with friends: is it all right if I call him “honey,” or will we get harassed? Can I safely say, “I love you,” or will we get threatened?
Thanks to this shooting, there’s now a new layer of fear and anxiety on that. Not just that I and my husband might be in danger, but that our actions might set off another bigot who will go murder a bunch of queer people.
Some people will ask, “It’s been three months; are you still upset about this?” And yes, people will actually ask. I know this because the day after the massacre happened people who I used to think were my friends were angry at me for being upset about the shooting.
Other people have much more immediate reasons not to forget: Last hospitalized survivor of Pulse nightclub shooting discharged. And now that he’s finally able to leave the hospital, Pulse nightclub shooting survivor plans return to New Orleans for recovery. Even though he’s out of the hospital, he’s got more recovery to do. As many of the other survivors are still going through physical therapy and otherwise trying to recover health and mobility that was taken from them.
There’s other kinds of fall-out still happening: State slaps $150,000 fine on security firm that employed Orlando Pulse shooter. The company isn’t being fined for anything directly related to the massacre. No, while authorities (and journalists) were investigating, the psychological evaluation he had undergone to get his security job was publicized. And people tried to contact the doctor whose name was on the evaluation. The problem was, she had stopped practicing more than a decade ago, had moved out of state, and hadn’t performed any evaluations for the employer since. At least 1500 employees were incorrectly listed has having been examined by the retired doctor during those ten years.
The state agency that investigated believes that all of those people were evaluated and passed, just that the wrong doctor was listed on their records. Over a thousand times. Over the course of ten years. Isn’t that reassuring?
I mean, a single psych eval doesn’t guarantee anything, particularly one done years before. And if I’m going to be disturbed about problems in the case, it would be the shooter’s history of domestic violence. One might ask how people get jobs where they are given badges and weapons and put in charge of security at places like courthouses when they have a history of domestic violence. I’m reminded of a chilling op-ed piece I read years ago that pointed out if having been arrested for domestic violence (or admitting in divorce proceedings to abuse) disqualified people from being cops, prison guards, and the like, we’d have a very hard time staffing departments, prisons, and so forth3.
“A FELONY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CONVICTION IS THE SINGLE GREATEST PREDICTOR OF FUTURE VIOLENT CRIME AMONG MEN.”
—according to the Washington State Institute for Public Policy’s analysis of The Offender Accountability Act
Let’s not forget that all the societal forces and institutions that encouraged the shooter to hate queer people, and that afterward blames the victims for bring this thing on themselves just by being who they are, are still active in this country. Some of them are even running for high political office. Others are merely preaching in churches around the country. Though some are finding themselves less welcome with their co-religionists: Baptist Union distances itself from anti-gay pastor.
The pastor in question, Steven Anderson, is one of many who said (from his pulpit) the Pulse massacre victims deserved to be murdered. He’s not the pastor who said that who has since been arrested for molesting a young boy. But since this guy also often goes off on homophobic rants, it wouldn’t surprise me if he gets caught doing something similar. But right now he’s just trying to go to South Africa and preach. He might not get to spread his hate there, however: SOUTH AFRICA CONSIDERS BANNING U.S. ANTI-GAY PREACHER.
Not that banning one pastor from one country is going to make much of a dent in the hate: Fox News Commentator Tells Conservative Christians They Must Support Anti-Gay Hate Groups.
But enough about the hateful people. What can we do to help love to win? Well, the first thing is not to forget the previous victims of hate:
1. The political cartoon I link to above refers to the Orlando shooter as a “gay homophobe” which was widely reported, but later debunked by the FBI2. The shooter installed a gay hookup app on his phone and set up his account around the same time that he bought the weapon that he later used in the massacre. And as I mentioned, his conversations never turned into meetings. He would ask gays what the busiest club was, and if they didn’t know, stop talking to him. If they mentioned any clubs, he would ask questions about the nightclubs, and then deflect any attempts by the person he was talking to to actually meet. A few people who spoke to the press in the aftermath of the shootings, claiming to have been flirted with by him or have even had sex with the shooter. But the FBI determined that none of them had actually met the shooter.
2. I still run into people who believe that the shooter was a self-loathing gay man, and that this fact means it wasn’t actually a hate crime. First, he wasn’t gay. Second, lots of hate crimes against queer people have been committed by self-loathing or in-denial queer people. Doesn’t make it any less of a hate crime.
3. I wish I could find that specific article, but I haven’t been able to track it down. There are numerous other sources of that data, however: Research suggests that family violence is two to four times higher in the law-enforcement community than in the general population. So where’s the public outrage? for instance. Or: 40% of police officer families experience domestic violence.
Thursday’s email from Brown began with calling his donors pathetic: “We’re only 17% toward our goal of receiving 1,500 membership contributions of at least $35. That is pathetic.” And when that tactic failed to get the desired response, he followed up by called his donors quitters: “I really don’t believe — I just can’t imagine the thought — that NOM’s members have quit fighting for God’s institution of marriage. And yet, only 256 of you have responded with an urgently needed membership contribution during this critical period.”
Three years ago I wrote about how the organization was going in the red and only surviving by taking “loans” of several millions of dollars from a related religious education non-profit: In the hole, still digging. The money from the religious non-profit was raised under rules that forbid it being used for political advocacy purposes, which means that an outright transfer is illegal. However, as long as they call them loans they can. I wish that the IRS would investigate them over this, but we all know they won’t.
Not only are donations drying up, but they’ve been getting ever more pathetic turn-out for their March for Marriage events in Washington, DC, in 2014, then 2015, and earlier this year. I agree with Joe Jervis, who predicts that NOM will merge with the equally anti-gay World Congress Of Families, which just so happens to have hired Brian Brown as their new president. He’ll continue peddling hate, just mostly in countries where the message finds more sympathy.
Not that there aren’t still haters right here in America: Trump and Rubio Attend Florida Rally That Mocks LGBT Pain. Not only did they attend this anti-gay hatefest, but they did it two months to the day after the Orlanda gay nightclub massacre. Classy. Trump comes under fire for anti-lgbt conference Trump, of course, keeps claiming that he’s going to be great for gay rights. He also keeps promising evangelicals that he’ll appoint supreme court judges that will overturn marriage equality. Trump also wants the repeal the law that forbids religious non-profits from endorsing candidate: ORLANDO: Trump Tells Hate Group Meeting That Winning Presidency Will Get Him Into Heaven [VIDEO].
Of course, not all homophobia is as obvious and frothing as the people at NOM or the Liberty Council or similar organizations: Daily Beast’s Olympic Grindr Story Slammed as ‘Dangerous,’ ‘Homophobic’. I realize NBC is trying to appear unbiased, but they should have revised that headline to “Daily Beast’s Homophobic Olympic Grindr Story Slammed as ‘Dangerous’.” If you don’t understand why the Daily Beast’s story in which a straight editor created a fake profile on a gay hook-up app and tricked a bunch of Olympic athletes (many of them from countries where they can be put to death just for being accused of being gay) into meeting is inherently homophobic, read this: Grindr is not a gay sex peep show for straight people: If our dating rituals are weird to you it’s because you denied us the luxury of normality in public for so long. I could go on about it, but over at Slate openly gay Olympic athlete Amini Fonua said it best: Do you realize how many people’s lives you just ruined without any good reason but clickbait journalism?
And let’s not forget the self-loathing gay people who enable their own (and our) oppression: LGBT Rights Opponent Newt Gingrich To Address Log Cabin Republicans.
Fortunately, hate is a losing strategy. Love trumps hate. Let’s end this on a happy note and remember that love wins: These beautiful portraits of LGBT couples embracing will melt your heart.
They’ve begun releasing autopsy reports of the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando: Most Pulse victims shot multiple times, first autopsies show. It was nearly two months ago, on June 12, that the killer snuck a gun into a busy gay night club on Latino night and opened fire, killing 49 people and wounding many others. In that time we’ve had Republican politicians express false sympathy, then days later vote down gay rights protections. We’ve had people try to claim that the act wasn’t an anti-gay crime. We’ve had people gin up evidence (which has been thoroughly debunked) that the killer was secretly gay himself. We’ve had people and politicians try to claim the killer was part of an organized Islamic terrorist organization, and that has been thoroughly debunked as well.
And a lot of people have moved on.
Some of us can’t. As I wrote before, one reason it’s so difficult for me is because my whole life I’ve lived with the fear and knowledge that there are people who hate queers enough to attack me and kill me, but I haven’t often had to think of the hatred of me being a danger to those around me. The killer’s own father said that his son had become disproportionately angry about seeing two men kissing in public over a week before the incident. Others who knew the killer have talked about his increasingly angry outbursts about gay people. Seeing two men kiss made him go kill 49 people in a busy gay nightclub during Pride month.
It’s one thing to know that bigots hate me enough to kill me. It’s another to realize some hate me enough to commit a massacre.
And it’s upsetting to know that some people who claim to be friends, and relatives who have said they love me, are completely incapable of understanding that this killer’s actions are a symptom of society’s messed up attitudes about queer people and about guns. And that’s what people are saying when they claim this is just one lone nut. Or that this isn’t really about queer people. Or that there is nothing society can do that will make these events less likely to happen. So, yeah, it’s upsetting to be told to my face that someone else’s right to sell assault weapons to a person with a history of domestic violence (despite even a majority of NRA members expressing the opinion that people convicted of such crimes shouldn’t be able to legally purchase guns) is more important than protecting the lives of people like me.
One of the other things we don’t think about in our haste to move on after an event like this is just how long the aftermath is. It’s been nearly two months, and they’re still working on the autopsies. The reports just now released are only the first part of the analysis. Experts won’t be able to begin to do a thorough incident analysis until all of the rest of the autopsy reports are complete, and then the work of coordinating those with all the other evidence and reports begins of trying to understand what happened in there.
And there’s so much more. A lot of money has been raised to help the survivors and victims. And the hard work of figuring out how to distribute the money is just beginning: Pulse survivors seek answers from $23 million OneOrlando Fund. And it isn’t going to be easy: The Costs Of The Pulse Nightclub Shooting.
People are still trying to decide what to do about the location itself: Mayor and owner want to turn Orlando nightclub Pulse into a memorial for the 49 killed.
There is uplifting news related to this. Some of the more severely wounded survivors are getting better: Pulse victim dances for first time after being shot multiple times. Seriously, go watch the two videos. They will do your soul good.
And please, don’t forget the people who died: Read about the victims.
People insist that there is nothing they else they can do, but frequently they’re wrong. There are things which can be done. Things within the power of the people making that statement. Congress critters of the conservative sort are especially liable, here (but not the only ones). And I don’t just mean in passing laws, though that could often help.
The very same congresspeople who sat in Republican caucus recently and prayed that gays are “worthy of death” made a big show of talking about thoughts and prayers while a lot of the public was up in arms about the Orlando shooting. It didn’t stop them from killing an amendment to extend job discrimination protections to queer people. It didn’t stop them from voting down an amendment to tighten (but hardly close) the so-called gun show loophole. It doesn’t stop them from attending rallies with pastors who call for the death of gays. It doesn’t stop them from telling their supporters that letting trans children use the bathroom that matches their gender identity is dangerous.
They’re not just withholding a water hose. They’re the people who have been splashing gasoline in the direction of every queer person they could for years. They’re the people who handed matches out to lots of people and said, “I don’t condone violence, but god says queers are monsters.”
Thoughts and prayers is more than just a means to look like you care when you don’t. It’s more than just a means to appear helpful while you do nothing. It’s more that just a means to make people focus on your piety rather than the problems of others.
It’s also an attempt to establish an alibi.
If they offer thoughts and prayers, then clearly they can claim they had no idea that all their anti-gay rhetorical was going to encourage another to attack queer people. If they offer thoughts and prayers, then clearly they can also claim that they had no idea that all the anti-trans hysteria they’ve whipped up over bathrooms would make gender nonconforming kids hate themselves to the point of considering suicide. If they offer thoughts and prayers, than clearly they can claim it’s not their fault that queer people grow up filled with fear and self-loathing, driving some to self destructive behavior, while driving some to turn that violence toward others. Clearly, they say, it isn’t their fault that anyone would listen to all the hate they have been spewing and act on it.
Why would anyone ever think they wanted that?
Michael and I had only been dating about four months when it happened. It appeared to be a day just like any other. Back then he lived and worked in Tacoma. Because he worked in a bar, his “weekend” was in the middle of my workweek. He didn’t own a car, so he would often take the bus up for Tacoma, we’d spend a day or two together, and he’d take the bus back. Sometimes I drove him, but most of the time it was the bus. On this one morning, for various reasons, I drove him into downtown Seattle and dropped him off at one of the big bus stops there, and then went on to my office. When I pulled over to the curb we said “good-bye,” leaned in and gave each other a quick kiss, and he got out of the car. I drove off, sad that it would be several days before I saw him again, but happy about the day we had had.
I was oblivious to the fact that as I drove away, a random stranger at the bus stop started harassing him for being queer. Because he’d seen me kiss Michael.
One of our friends has described my husband has “the most capable guy I’ve ever known.” His job history has included working as a bouncer at a not entirely savory bar. He bikes. When he was younger, he rode bulls in rodeo for fun. He’s not a small man. He can take care of himself.
But none of that matters if someone takes you by surprise. Or if you’re outnumbered. Or if you’re just not as good as them. And don’t think that being armed himself changes that equation. You can’t shoot another person’s bullet down in midair. You can’t safely defend yourself with a gun in a location crowded with bystanders—such as a very busy street in front of a bustling office building on a bright sunny weekday morning.
Even though the guy didn’t physically attack Michael that day. Even though Michael survived the incident to tell me about it after, sixteen years later I still have nightmares about how that situation could have gone down differently. All because I kissed him.
That was only one of the nightmares I’ve had this week, thanks to the news out of Orlando.
Eighteen years later, every time we are out in public and I feel an urge to tell my husband that I love him, or to hold his hand, or give him a quick kiss, I have to do that calculation. Are we safe here? Will someone say horrible things? Will someone threaten us? Will someone do something even worse?
A friend shared someone else’s blog post about why the Orlando shooting has so shaken him this morning, which makes substantially the same points:
If I kiss Matt in public, like he leaned in for on the bike trail the other day, I’m never fully in the moment. I’m always parsing who is around us and paying attention to us. There’s a tension that comes with that… a literal tensing of the muscles as you brace for potential danger. For a lot of us, it’s become such an automatic reaction that we don’t even think about it directly any more. We just do it…
We live constantly with the knowledge that there are people all around us who hate us enough to kill us. And this event isn’t merely a reminder of that, it carries another message:
Additionally, now we just got a lesson that expressing our love could result in the deaths of *others* completely unrelated to us. It’s easy to take risks when it’s just you and you’ve made that choice. Now there’s this subtext that you could set off someone who kills other people who weren’t even involved. And that’s just a lot.
That’s why I’m personally a bit off balance even though (or because, depending on how you look at it) I live in Texas and was not personally effected by this tragedy.
This is part of why I’m taking this shooting in Orlando so personally: the constant knowledge that there are people who will kill me, my husband, and so many more because of who we love. Worse than that, there are more people who will encourage that hate. They may say they don’t hate us personally, and of course they don’t condone violence, but they also say that violence is the natural consequence of our sin. In the same breath they condemn the violence, they declare the violence a result of divine will, and apparently don’t see the contradiction in that. And there is an even larger group of people who sincerely believe they are not prejudiced against us at all, but they enable guys like the Orlando shooter in thousands of little ways, whether it be opposing hate crime legislation, or anti-discrimination laws, or any form or gun policy reform.
This is why I’m long past the point where I can be silent about the hateful rhetoric of people like Ted Cruz, the Family Research Council, the Pope, and everyone else who says that queers are sinners. This is why I can no long sit silently polite and bite my tongue (yet again) when people say that I’m the bad guy for thinking that maybe a guy with a history of domestic violence who was also on the FBI watch list should not have been able to legally buy an assault rifle with no questions asked.
If your first reaction to me or any queer person you know expressing our feelings about this mass murder is to argue with us about gun policy, or to tell us we’re over reacting, or anything other than, “you seem to be taking this really hard, are you all right?” then you may well be part of the problem.
To answer the question that some people I thought were my friends didn’t ask before launching into attack mode this weekend: No, I’m not all right. I’m mad as hell. And I have more than ample reason to be mad.
It is not unreasonable to be upset at this mass murder. It is not unreasonable to ask questions about why fairly simple, non-draconian measures that are supported by a solid majority of voters—and that have been proven to work in other countries—are constantly being opposed by absolutists. It is not unreasonable to want to hold people who have enabled the hatred responsible. It is not unreasonable to hold people who keep enabling a toxic society that turns young men into festering piles of self-loathing and anger responsible. And it is not unreasonable to hold people who don’t just enable, but encourage, the easy availability of assault weapons to people that even they agree shouldn’t have guns in the first place responsible.
I’m not all right. I’m mad as hell. And you should be, too.
I’ve written a few times about the case of former Republican Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, who has pled guilty to charges of trying to illegally conceal large cash transfers he made to pay millions of dollars in hush money in order to prevent the public from learning that while he was a high school wrestling coach he molested at least four of the boys under his supervision. The sexual assaults occurred long enough ago that due to a statute of limitations on such crimes, Hastert can’t be charged with the molestation. (Which prompted the Daily Show to point out, “You’d think something as awful as molesting children would have no statute of limitations”, because things like parking tickets have no statute of limitations, for example.)
There was one interesting little twist this week as Hastert’s sentencing date approaches: The judge in Dennis Hastert’s hush-money case says that if the former House speaker wants letters of support considered during his sentencing, they must be made public. Hastert’s lawyers have drummed up 60 letters of support from various people asking the judge for leniency. However, those letters have been submitted under seal, keeping the identity of the letter writers and the contents of the letters private. Presumably because most of the people (if not all) who wrote the letters only agreed to do so on condition of anonymity. Because no one, particularly no elected official, wants to go on record supporting a child molester. The judge has rightfully pointed out that ordinarily such leniency pleas are part of the public record.
I’ve been harping on Hastert because he was an anti-gay politician when he was in Congress, going so far as to, after promising the parents of Matthew Shephard (who was murdered in a gruesome hate crime) to help pass a hate crime’s bill, actually did everything in his power to kill it (and succeeded). Some reporters have tried to claim that Hastert wasn’t that anti-gay, or at least not as anti-gay as some of his fellow Republicans. Michelangelo Signorile begs to differ: How Dennis Hastert Demonized Gays as Predators While He Was the True ‘Super-Predator’
Hastert, of course, isn’t the only Republican who demonized some people’s sexual lives while engaging is sexual misconduct himself: Cosponsor of Tenn. Transphobic Bill Accused of Sexual Harassment Not just accused—the accusations have been around for months—what has finally happened is the Attorney General’s office has found sufficient evidence against GOP Rep. Jeremy Durham that the rest of the legislature felt compelled to act, and has exiled him to an office in another building and essentially quarantined him from any contact with woman on any legislative staff position. I am very amused at Think Progress’s headline earlier this week about it: The Surprising Sexual Harassment Scandal Accompanying Tennessee’s Anti-Transgender Bill, because the only thing that any reasonable person should find surprising about this is that his fellow republicans have taken any action against their fellow family values champion at all.
The records show that Hastert’s office kept a legislative file titled “Homosexuals,” filled with policy statements from social conservative groups like the Traditional Values Coalition and the Family Research Council that criticized same-sex marriage and Clinton administration efforts to prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians. The file also includes a 1996 Weekly Standard article, “Pedophilia Chic” that warned that “revisionist suggestions about pedophilia” were being embraced by the left…
…What was curiously not in Hastert’s files, according to the Politico report, was anything about the scandal that enveloped former GOP congressman Mark Foley, who was exposed in 2007 for having sent sexually explicit messages to teenage boys in the House page program. Hastert in fact was accused of dragging his feet in dealing with Foley’s activities, his office having known about it for months but either covering it up or simply not acting with the speed expected from the office of a House member who was so concerned about child predators.
And remember those statute of limitations laws in various states that shield child molesters, while letting other, far less severe crimes be punished many many years later. You want to know how those laws came to exist? Disgraced Former NY Assembly Speaker had affairs with at least two women — one a lobbyist, the other a former assemblywoman, court papers show According to records unsealed this week, former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had affairs with two women, one of whom is a former aide turned lobbyist who was hired by the Catholic Church to pressure legislators against a bill that would have extended the time period in which victims of molestation could sue their attackers. Sheldon dropped his support for the bill once his former aide/mistress began lobbying against it. So the sex criminals being shielded were pedophile priests whose victims didn’t speak up while they were still children. Again.
And I have to ask once again, why do any of us ever take any of these anti-sex, anti-gay politicians seriously? There is not one single case of someone using a trans rights law to try to sexually assault someone, but there are hundreds of cases of anti-gay, pro-family elected officials molesting children, sexually harassing or assaulting people, having extramarital affairs, taking their same sex “photographer” who also happens to live with them on taxpayer-funded junkets, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.