I’ve debated for the last 24 hours whether to address the Orlando massacre today. On one hand, I feel helpless to do anything and that helplessness has made me wonder if one more article will do anything. It seems impossible in the wake of such a tragedy.
But on the other hand, I am filled with such an anger, at the shooter, at the reaction on Facebook, and at our government, that I think to say nothing would be to be tacitly supporting false ideas. And fuck that.
The shooter, Omar Mateen, targeted a gay nightclub during Pride Month. He specifically targeted the LGBTQ+ community, marking this as not only the largest massacre in U.S. history but a hate crime of horrific proportions. The shooter was American, born in New York. The shooter legally bought his weapons. He was, according to his ex-wife and family, not particularly religious but that is something that I cannot prove or disprove. Allegedly before he attacked the nightclub, Pulse, he called 911 and pledged his allegiance to ISIS.
As a queer person, I am sickened and saddened and distraught at the loss of so many members of my community. Pulse was a nightclub, and nightclubs have been, historically for LGBTQ+ people, safe havens. We have gathered there, rallied there, found strength there, and found community there. To attack in a nightclub, Mateen struck at the very core of our community.
But watch, in the coming hours, days and weeks, how our government reacts to this tragedy. They will focus on ISIS, or on fanning the flames of xenophobia, or proclaim him to be “mentally unstable.” They will offer thoughts and prayers. We don’t need your thoughts and prayers. We need, from our government officials, action. We need them to change our laws.
I don’t need politicians like Ted Cruz, Donald Trump or Carly Fiorina to offer their “prayers” for a community that up until the attack, they called rapists, pedophiles and deviants. We don’t need those kinds of prayers. They will offer sympathy because it is what is expected of them, but memory is a long thing. I don’t need people who destructively limit women’s access to abortion clinics but allow for lax gun control policies to offer sympathy. You don’t get to protect one sphere of life while leaving another to die. You don’t get to pick and choose.
Watch how our presidential candidates react to this tragedy. Watch if they shift the focus from the necessary conversation about stricter gun control to inflaming hatred against Muslims. See what they say, what they promise.
I need our politicians to finally decide to change laws. Don’t give me bullshit about the Second Amendment, or that if the clubgoers had guns they could’ve fought back. If you want to abide exactly by a centuries-old document to the detriment of Americans, give up electricity while you’re at it. Commit.
I am angry because nothing seems to be enough. Sandy Hook wasn’t enough. The shooting in the movie theater wasn’t enough. Nothing is enough for politicians to stand up and decide to change laws. How many times does President Obama need to get up to that podium and deal with such tragedy before lawmakers decide to change?
Our politicians, our democratically elected politicians, are telling us that our lives are expendable. That our safety is worth less than preserving some ancient tome. I won’t stand for that. I don’t want to exist in a country where in 2015, there were 372 mass shootings.
Thoughts and prayers are kind and appreciated, but that time has passed. We need direct action from our government. Don’t hide behind xenophobia and Islamophobia. Don’t say that this is unrelated to gun control laws. Own up. Take responsibility.
To everyone who was affected by the Orlando shootings, I am so deeply sorry. I am sorry that you went to what you thought was a safe space and were attacked. I am sorry that we could not protect you. I am sorry to your family members, who woke up to terror and confusion. I am sorry that we did not do enough.
This attack was done during Pride. Gay Pride is not just a celebration of being gay; it is a political statement, a show of strength in a world that condemns us and vilifies us. It is not just about rainbows and love; it is showing that we still face extreme prejudice and violence, and that did not end with marriage equality. It continues every single day.
I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be queer. I will not be cowed by violence; I will not be bullied into silence. The LGBTQ+ community has existed and persevered in the face of extreme danger forever. We have done that because we are stronger than that; because we refuse to break. Remember that in the coming days and weeks. We are strong; we are united. Remember those who died at Pulse and remember why we continue to fight.