On Orlando: One man held the gun in the club that night, but there were many fingers on that trigger.
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I've been trying to find new words for the tragedy in Orlando, but the old words are sometimes the new words. In April 2015, I wrote a piece in response to another terrorist act against the gay community - Governor Mike Pence's "religious freedom" law in Indiana. That piece was, "Maybe Yesterday, But Not Tonight: A Black Homosexual Speaks To Governor Mike Pence."
Pence, according to the Indianapolis Star, was one of the first Republicans to offer support and prayers for the victims of Orlando. But he fails, it seems, to realize that his anti-gay legislation empowers men like the Orlando terrorist to kill.
From the born-again Christian who shamed me the day after my wedding, calling my marriage an "abomination before God", to Daniel Ashley Pierce's family physically attacking him for being gay, to Tyler Clementi’s and Jamie Rodemeyer’s bullying by peers and their subsequent suicides, to Sakia Gunn’s and Islan Nettle’s murders in the street – it's all hate. One man held the gun in the club that night, but there were many fingers on that trigger.
And if it is true, as has been speculated, that Mateen was gay or bi-sexual himself, while it does not absolve him from responsibility, it may deepen the conversation of what it means to be queer in this world, the indoctrination of gay hate and fear of the feminine which too many men grow up with, and how it leads to violence against others and oneself.
I am choosing to believe that these desperate acts are a direct response to what some people know is a paradigm-shift happening in our culture and on our planet. They may be able to kill individuals – and we mourn those lost lives – but they can't kill all of us, they can't kill what makes us who we are, and they can't kill the courage that it takes to stand in front of your family, your church, your community, and your bathroom mirror, and say, "I am a gay woman. I am a gay man. I am bisexual. I am transgender. I choose to love myself."
So, yes, a man committed an act of violence against a group of innocent people – unfortunately these days that just isn't news anymore. But someone will come out today as gay, and she will do so because of the courage of people who were out and proud, like many of those killed in Orlando, people who stood in their truth; and to her friends and family THAT will be news. It is this that I choose to recognize.
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Image: Screenshot via ABC News/Twitter