“My son got angry after seeing two men kissing” said the father of Omar Mateen, the twenty-nine year old gunman who killed 50 people and injured 53 in a gay nightclub in Orlando on June, 12.
It is excruciating to know that we live in the twenty-first century, and people are still getting killed because of their sexual orientation. Many speak of equality, yet equality is still far to be achieved in a society where people are regularly murdered because of who they are. I have always thought that my only misfortune was to be born without the comfort of a happy future in the place I was born in, but that I would find my happy place in the world someday. In the last week a bomb was detonated inside a women’s bathroom at a Target store after it had been assaulted by transphobic right-wing extremists over the past few months; over one million Christians have signed a petition which says that they will boycott the aforementioned store; the Pulse nightclub was attacked by a lone man, and it soon became to represent the biggest mass shooting in US history; a suspect driving to the gay pride in Los Angeles was taken into custody after assault weapons and powder explosives were found in the trunk of his car.
I have always been positive that the world could be a safe place for the LGBT+ community, but as of now I am no longer sure.
The violence exhibited against a gay venue —one of many spaces which were born in a time where the gay community felt isolated— is evidence of an attack which was devised to discriminate and shatter an identity that we gays have had to fight for for a long time. A transgender death is registered every 29 hours in the Western world, and crimes against LGBT+ people increase dangerously every year. Public opinion speaks of giant steps which have been taken towards the acceptance and integration of non-heterosexual people in a heterosexist world (e.g., the recent recognition of same-sex unions in Italy on June 5, 2016), but Orlando’s act of terror shows that much more has to be done.
I have spent twenty years of my life fighting against the prejudice and I have never been more proud to say that I am gay. Homophobia is the evil behind Orlando’s tragedy, but homophobia does not just exist as an independent entity, it is rather justified and caused by one’s upbringing and/or their religion. And it is religious integralism that we have to deal with once again. It is neither Allah, nor Christ, nor Buddha, but those integralists who shape their religions after their own agendas the same way an artist shapes a statue, who are to blame. Ronald Hopper, an assistant agent, said that Omar Mateen talked about the Islamic State in a call to 911 shortly before the massacre at the Pulse nightclub, while other officials assert that he pledged allegiance to the group. Hours after the attack, the Islamic State claimed responsibility stating that the attack “was carried out by an Islamic State fighter”.
As a homosexual man, it scares me the way we are still taught that anti-gay positions are acceptable and legitimate. The first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) claims that
‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’,
yet we are nowhere near witnessing such a proposition come true. On May 28, 2016, 76+ countries still boasted anti-homosexuality laws, with 73 of them counting criminal laws against sexual activity by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people; a recent research led by Badgett and Lau —among others— shows that gay men earn 10% to 32% less than similarly qualified heterosexual men; several countries still prevent ‘men who have sex with men’ from donating their blood. In his speech about what happened in Orlando, besides a call for gun control Obama has said: “In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another”, but who can we trust in a world which is showing us its ugliness a little more every day?
The attack began at 2 a.m.. Omar Mateen stormed in the club and shot one-third of the people, while a few of them managed to flee down the streets or hide in the restrooms and alert the police. “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running” could be read on the Facebook page of the Pulse nightclub. It was not until 5 a.m. that a SWAT team raided the building and killed Mr. Mateen. Bodies tagged with different colours could be seen everywhere in the parking lot, to help first aid workers know who to help first and who not help first. “Just blood everywhere” Christopher Hansen said.
When I heard about Orlando, it did not take long before a reading from the aftermath of World War II came to my mind. Political theorist Hannah Arendt concluded that people who do evil are not necessarily monsters, but can sometimes be ‘completely normal men’. This is the case of all the non-Hitlers and non-Stalins out there, and Omar Mateen is no exception. “Good can be radical; evil can never be radical, it can only be extreme” Arendt said, “for it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension yet […] it can spread like a fungus […]”. “My son got angry after seeing two men kissing’”said the father of Omar Mateen, in a silly attempt to justify what his son did to more than 100 harmless people who were just brave enough to be themselves. But a silly attempt nonetheless, I would like to emphasise. “Pride flag” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by quinn.anya
50 people were brutally killed in a nightclub at the opposite end of the world, yet never in my life have I felt so close to the LGBT+ people out there. I am not afraid to say that I am scared and shaken because at 21 years of age I still struggle to see a happy place for me out there, but if there is one lesson that we all have to learn from what has happened is that
we will not stop kissing because a homophobe is outraged by our love.
The banality of evil lives by our side: it is the church refusing same sex people’s right to marry; it is the law limiting the definition of “‘family”; it is everybody turning a blind eye when gays are killed for being gay; it is a news host refusing to name the shooting an attack on LGBT+ people. Because this is what Orlando’s shooting was and should be named: an attack on LGBT+ people, and it is about time that everybody opens their eyes! Homophobia is still very much alive, it has just become more subtle. It is a kind of homophobia that says “We will be nice to you as long as we are not affected by you”. And the road to overcome it is still a long one.
It is my strongest hope that the senseless and unjustified hatred against the LGBT+ community will soon be acknowledged in its entirety, and that LGBT+ hate crimes will stop being twisted into something that they are not (e.g., media talking of ‘nightclub shooting’ rather than ‘gay nightclub shooting’). I hope that guns will no longer be the answer to our differences, and that everybody will give peace a chance. In the words of John Lennon “it matters not who you love, where you love or how you love, it matters only that you love”… but not everybody seems to have quite understood it yet.