Homophobia Kills – The Lesson of the Pulse Massacre

The other day, I listened to Kate Bush in the car on my commute to and from work, specifically tracks from The Whole Story. This album has a special place in my heart and history. I first heard it, and listened to it obsessively, when I came out 28 years ago. So I will forever connect it to that time in my life when doors opened, eyes widened, perspectives grew, and just so much in my life began to make a great deal more sense.

Many at the Pulse in Orlando, Florida were at a similar point in their lives, their doors opening, their eyes widening, their perspectives growing. A madman ended all that. And now nothing makes sense at all, for their love ones, for the LGBTQ community, for decent citizens everywhere. Nothing can explain the hurt, pain, panic, anguish, or frightful rage that wells inside as a result of this meaningless, senseless attack.

The Pulse had been a safe space for its mostly Latina/o denizens. Folks found themselves and each other in a supportive atmosphere of sweaty dance floors and hot music. It sounded a lot like the Catch One, the legendary black gay club in LA, where the children went after coming out into the life.

It angers me beyond words that so sacred a space has been violated. I applaud the Pulse’s resolve to reopen.

Who did this? Some facts about Omar Mateen have come out quickly. He was born in New York City. He was a domestic abuser who beat his first wife so severely that her family staged an intervention to rescue her. With her family’s support, she divorced the man. His former coworkers say that he had an explosive temper, that he flew off at the slightest provocation. And apparently, the FBI had suspicions about him and investigated him twice. Yet this man was able to legally purchase guns, including a high-powered assault rifle. What does that say about us, as a society, that we allow someone like that to buy firearms?

Later more information emerged. He apparently went to the Pulse several times, as a patron. On a couple of visits, he got thrown out for rowdy behavior. And he cruised guys with dating apps. In other words, he lived in the cyber-closet. These creepy details now paint a picture of a man in conflict with himself. Just before starting his rampage, he called 9-1-1 to say that he belonged to ISIS. The terrorist group quickly claimed him as their one of their own.

Bullshit. The Orlando Killer was at best an accidental jihadist. He had no other agenda but hatred, self-hatred. His last-minute attachment to ISIS was the act of a soulless person searching for identity. Rather than face the truth about his sexuality, he chose the identity of a mass murderer, a demonstration of his lack of character. The murderer’s young victims, some just coming out and discovering themselves, had a greater sense of self than he ever would. So often those with the greatest self-awareness (Harvey Milk) are murdered by those who have no self-awareness at all (Dan White).

Idiots that say that homophobia had nothing to do with the killings are themselves blinded by their own homophobia. Homophobia had everything to do with this attack, all the more so because this guy hated himself for being queer.

The most violent homophobes are always the self-haters. Roy Cohn went to his grave swearing that he wasn’t gay (he was) and that he didn’t have AIDS (he did). His self-hatred led him to destroy many lives though his fanatical persecution of gays in civil and military service. Both Cohn and the Orlando Killer destroyed themselves with their self-hatred. It just pisses me off, though, that the killer took so many with him.

So there are two important lessons from this tragedy. First, homophobia kills. Homophobia causes the derange to harass, bash, and kill LGBTQ people. Society enforces homophobia by saying nothing when the harassing, bashing, and killing happens. Silence still equals death. Do not compound this vile man’s acts by denying its true character. The Orlando Killer hated himself and could only reconcile his hatred through violence. Proper intervention somewhere in his life may have steered him towards a different path. Judging from the misguided statements made by his father, he clearly did not have a lot of good examples growing up.

The second lesson is one I’ve talked about before, one that may have talked about for years. Guns. How the fuck was this man able to get a goddamn assault rifle? Well, for one, the assault rifle ban expired in 2004. Thanks, George W. Bush. Second, the common sense gun laws, which even a majority of gun owners support, have yet to materialize. Once again, the blood of the dead stain the hands of the NRA and the cowardly politicians who do their bidding.

We can learn these lessons, or keep ignoring them and allow people to die. If we chose the latter path, then I don’t want to hear anyone saying “you have my prayers and sympathy” the next time something horrific like this happens. Because the words will ring hollow. I’m with Samantha Bee.

Love does not win unless we start loving each other enough to fix our fucking problems.
From “Full Frontal w/Samantha Bee,” Monday, June 13, 2016

Amen, Samantha, amen.

© 2016, gar. All rights reserved.


Homophobia Kills – The Lesson of the Pulse Massacre — 2 Comments

  1. It was both a hate crime and an islamic terrorist attack. If you never acknowledge the problem, a solution can never be found. 100% of British Muslims polled by Gallup said homosexuality was immoral. I suggest you wake up to the religion/culture intolerant and hell bent on killing you. All religions have a tiny tiny extremist segment, but Islam stands out as 100% intolerant of gays and you effectively defend them by diverting attention away from the real issue.

    From CNN:

    Mateen also vented on Facebook before and during the massacre.
    “America and Russia stop bombing the Islamic state,” the gunman wrote, according to the chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
    “You kill innocent women and children by doing us airstrikes … now taste the Islamic state vengeance.”
    Then, in his final post, an ominous warning: ”In the next few days you will see attacks from the Islamic state in the usa.”
    New video of Orlando shooter emerges

    New video of Orlando shooter emerges 01:50
    The messages were described in a letter from committee Chairman Ron Johnson to Mark Zuckerberg, asking the Facebook CEO to provide “all Facebook data on Mr. Mateen’s activities on his account and any affiliated Facebook accounts.”
    It’s not the only time Mateen invoked ISIS during his rampage early Sunday. In the middle of killing 49 people, Mateen also called 911 to pledge allegiance to the terror group and CNN affiliate News 13 to say, “I did it for ISIS. I did it for the Islamic State.”
    And an analysis of Mateen’s electronic devices showed searches for jihadist propaganda, including videos of ISIS beheadings, an official said.

    • I found the source for your statement “100% of British Muslims polled by Gallup said homosexuality was immoral” from a Guardian article in 2009. (https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2009/may/07/muslims-britain-france-germany-homosexuality)

      A more recent survey, from this year, shows that 52% of British Muslims support a ban of homosexuality.

      Progress? Maybe. There is no reason to think that homophobia within the Muslim community is any more or less immutable than in any other group (African American, Latino, Jewish, Christian, etc.). In my personal life, I’m typically more impacted by the homophobia of Christian groups than Muslim ones. For example, the Mormon church backed Prop 8, which prevented me from getting married from 2008 to 2013 when it was finally overturned.

      More to the point, though, you fail to take into account the intersectionality between homosexuality and Islam. In other words, there are LGBTQ folks who are Muslim. The two groups are not mutually exclusive. Ridding homophobia within all groups is the only solution. I’m not going to demonize one group as more homophobic than another. All hands are guilty.

      And as for Mateen’s jihadist tendencies, the jury is still out as to how connected he was to any known terrorist groups. He basically sounded like a deranged hothead with a bent towards violence that became more violent during his life. Since writing this piece, it has been reported that he was suspended from school a large number of days, that he beat up kids, and that he cheered when 9/11 happened. However, he never traveled abroad or tried in any way, that we know of yet, to attach himself directly with any groups. He was certainly inspired by them. But I maintain that part of the reason for his attachment to these groups was a means of further burying his repressed queer nature.

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