The LGBTQ massacre at Pulse Orlando yesterday by Omar Mateen was horrifying and devastating – and it made it even more clear how important it is still to work against homophobia and hatred, and toward greater compassion for all. How important it is that lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and queer folk are visible and normalized in every aspect of our society (as well as people of color, people with physical and mental disabilities, people with mental health issues, people who are “fat,” all of us who are “different” in some way from the “normal” or “beautiful” that society sells us). How important it is to have LGBTQIA – and other forms of diversity – books, movies, and media, support centers and crisis lines, and community. Pride Month seems like a celebration to outsiders – but we have fought hard for equality and safety, and we are still fighting against homophobia and hatred. This horrific massacre shows how much we still need LGBTQIA Pride, and greater compassion and awareness for all kinds of diversity.
All day yesterday I kept going back to the news coverage and social network updates. It was wrenching and painful, disturbing and deeply saddening, and brought up so much hopelessness and despair and pain for me. For so many people around the world. As a lesbian torture and rape survivor who has witnessed a lot of murder, violence, hatred, and homophobia, it hit me on so many levels.
Mateen’s father reported that his son had recently been repulsed by seeing two gay men kissing and that he himself believed that “gays should be punished by God”. (Learned homophobia and hatred, anyone?) And Isis followers of the Sharia law, which the shooter said he stood for, believe homosexuality is a crime, and they have killed many queer people. The shooter had also been abusive, and beat up his first wife. Violence and hatred is rarely isolated.
So many people responded with compassion to this tragedy. I was glad to see people from all over – queer and heterosexual – lining up to give blood, attending vigils worldwide and expressing shock and pain, and offering support to LGBTQ people and loved ones.
Banding together after a tragedy, offering support and compassion and working to help others in trauma shows the beauty of the human spirit. Please, let’s not lose that compassion and determination to work towards a better world in a few days or weeks or months, when the shock and devastation fades. Let’s try to prevent something so horrible happening again.
Mateen, although he’d been investigated twice by the FBI and had his cased dropped, and was mentally unstable, had gun permits and used an AR-15 rifle, the same used in Newtown and San Bernardino.
After this horrific massacre, and so many others in recent US history, I desperately hope that US people will work towards greater gun control, and make it harder for violent and mentally unstable people to get a gun. In 2015 alone, there were 352 mass shootings, 64 school shootings, and overall some 13,286 murdered by guns in the USA. “Of all the murders in the US in 2012, 60% were by firearm compared with 31% in Canada, 18.2% in Australia, and just 10% in the UK” (In Canada, Australia, and the UK we have stricter gun laws than the US).
I have witnessed so much murder and abuse, experienced daily/nightly torture and rape and hatred at the hands of my parents and their cult members – and what I know deep in my soul is that compassion and love cut through hate; that hate destroys souls and people and lives; and that every life is important and matters – human and animal – and that we should not allow it to be thrown away. And I have seen that violence and hatred, discrimination and abuse, are all interconnected.
The extreme hatred and violence of Pulse Orlando is not isolated; it is echoed in the homophobia and hatred spewed daily from right-wing Christians; in the many shootings of Black people by white police in the US; by the murders, rapes, and attacks on queer people throughout the world, by the “honor” killings of thousands of girls and women in Pakinstan and India each year; by genital mutilation (and sometimes resulting death) of girls; by frequent rape and sexual harassment of women and girls and boys around the world. We are all in this together.
We need to make changes to our world to prevent murder, violence, abuse, torture, and heartbreak.
We need to:
- Work towards stricter gun laws that prevent violent, abusive, mentally unstable, and hating people getting guns and rifles. Owning a gun doesn’t make us safer; “an average of 554 American women are fatally shot by romantic partners every year. That works out to a domestic violence gun homicide with a female victim once every 16 hours.”
- Work towards greater compassion, empathy, and an end to hate.
- Not blame Muslims for this homophobic, hate-filled attack. I have seen homophobia and hatred towards LGBTQ people from Christians (especially right wing), Catholics, and other religions, even atheists.
- Work towards freedom, safety, and equality for all.
“No one is free until we are all free.”
– Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
I will do my part. I will never stop being who I am – a lesbian feminist torture survivor – and being open about it. I will always stand up against homophobia, sexism, racism, and other forms of hatred and inequality when I see it. I will always write about LGBTQ characters who love each other and who heal, as well as survivors of abuse and trauma, and other diverse people. I will always have rainbow flags, buttons, t-shirts, and celebrate pride. And I will try to always approach others with compassion, empathy, and love. I will not put hatred or unhappiness in this world.
There is so much hatred and cruelty in the world. But there is also so much hope, and compassion and beauty and love. Let’s take some of that goodness inside us–and act.
We need to stand up against hatred and violence. I hope that you will–whether you’re part of the LGBTQ community or an ally, whether you’re of color or white, whether you’re able or differently abled … stand up against hatred when you see it. Say something when you hear a homophobic, racist, sexist joke or comment. Stand up against bullying, sexual harassment, rape. Work towards better gun laws in the US and every country that needs it. Work towards better laws against homophobia and rape and murder. Sign petitions against horrific things. Spread the word about companies that hurt people or animals or the earth. Do whatever you can in whatever way you can. I know that together we can make a healing difference in this world. I’ve seen it already – a greater awareness of child abuse, of homophobia, of sexual harassment and rape, of sexism (think the right for women to vote), and greater rights won. Let’s keep working together for a kinder world.
UPDATE: If you’d like to help make a difference now, I hope you’ll sign the petition to ban assault rifles in the US. I did. You can also make a donation.
There’s a second petition by another activist group I trust to ban assault weapons. I’ve signed it, and I hope you will, too.
You can also show your support for the LGBTQ community by attending a vigil this week. Find it here: www.weareorlando.org or add your local event there. I’m heartened to see that more events have been added, not just in the US, but also in Canada, Brazil, France, UK, Albania, Australia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Poland, Puerto Rico, Serbia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, and Ecuador. People around the world are responding with grief, love, and compassion for the LGBTQ community, and against violence. This is heartening to see. You are not alone.
– Cheryl Rainfield, author of SCARS, STAINED, HUNTED, and Parallel Visions.