When I heard of the Orlando massacre, I was at a bridal shower, celebrating love. At a table with my daughter and in-laws, I put the news aside, because I could. I talked instead about the bride’s new family and the beautiful cake and the lovely weather. The tragic news was glossed over in a “that’s so sad” kind of offhand way. I was glad. I knew when I got the chance I would take to social media and the news sites and learn all the horrible details, but I admit I was happy to retreat into my privilege for the moment and speak of lighter things.
Then the conversation turned to politics, and I found myself trying to keep calm while I explained that no, men pretending to be transgender women are not a problem in our bathrooms, and yes, I know this for a fact. I think I shifted their opinions a bit, but it’s possible they agreed just to keep me quiet.
Later, bile rose in my throat and my face was hot as a table full of well-dressed and well-to-do ladies spoke about how they’d consider voting for Trump “if he could just keep his mouth shut!” I would like to say I was brave and spoke up again, but I just drank my mimosa and kept quiet. I’m sorry. I wanted to, but I couldn’t find any words. I was afraid.
Not afraid of my in-laws, but afraid for my daughter and the world she will inherit. Afraid for all of us, those marching in pride parades and those walking to classes and those in the “wrong place at the wrong time” everywhere. Afraid because I saw hate. Not loud, violent hate, but a much more dangerous hate: quiet, refined, and confident. Hate backed up by money and power and privilege, hate that does not believe it is hate at all. I wish I had spoken up. I would have pointed out how all these things are connected: the violent crimes against gay people and the targeting of transgender bathroom rights and the bigotry of political candidates. I wish I could have made some intelligent argument or insightful quip, but I had nothing except fear and sadness inside me.
Later, I went online to learn all the horrible details of the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history. A little less secure in my privilege, I cried at the pictures and details, and got angry at the ignorant bigoted comments I saw. Again, I felt afraid for all of us, at the hate and fear in our world right now. Terror is a good word for what happened, and for what I feel. What will happen at the upcoming pride events around the country? What will happen at the gay clubs downtown? Who is an enemy? How can we tell? Is there any way to stop these attacks against the LGBT community?
I don’t know, of course. But I do know that we all need to stand against homophobia. And we need to call this massacre what it is: a hate crime against LGBT people. Not a random attack, a targeted one. Fed by hate and nurtured by the kind of political ideologies that preach bigotry and xenophobia. This massacre was a horrifically violent expression of homophobia, but unfortunately homophobia is all too common.
The first Pride parade was a reaction to Stonewall, a commemoration and continuation of the bravery demonstrated by the rioters. Pride might be a celebration, but it is not all party, it is also -still- an act of bravery. A time to stand up, afraid but not alone, and show pride in something widely condemned. It seems to me the strength of Pride, and the solidarity of the LGBT community it represents, is needed now more than ever. I know the LGBT community will stand together in this time of sadness and fear, but I hope (so hard) that non-LGBT people will, too. If ever there was a time to be an ally, it is now.
Equality Florida is offering services, and raising money to support the victims, if you are able to donate please visit their page. Rather than reading post after post about the murderer, consider learning about the victims, and celebrating their lives instead. And if you are in a position to speak up against homophobia, no matter how casual or “harmless” it appears, please try to do so. Maybe with love we can fight this hate. ❤