Edit: Please read all the way through the end of this post. I posted this while angry and didn’t take the time to be as thoughtful as I should have, and in response to some of the fair criticism of the post, I’ve written an addendum at the end. I’m leaving the original for context
I tried to come up with a clever clickbait title for this post, but I stopped caring pretty quick. I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m hurt. 50 people are dead, and 53 people have had their lives (probably) forever changed because some asshole got mad over two guys kissing. I understand that we don’t know for 100% sure what his motivations were, but I think it’s safe to say at this point that this was an anti-gay hate crime driven at least partially by religious fundamentalism.
Before we jump on the Islam hate bandwagon, I want it to be made clear that this sort of thing is not even close to uniquely Islamic. In fact, in the United States, the Christian right basically invented homophobia. Regardless of the shooter’s faith and whether or not his motivations we partially or even mostly religious, it is at the feet of the Christian right that I lay the blame for this tragedy.
We can say (and rightfully so) that most people, regardless of their faith or lack thereof abhor the kind of violence we saw this morning. Most people are more interested in what’s going on in their own daily lives than whether or not trans people are transitioning or gay people are having sex. That being said, silence in the face of injustice IS agreement. One of my favorite quotes is “if you stay silent in the face of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
If you have ever publicly given credence to the idea that me using the same bathroom as you makes you less safe, I’m looking at you. If you’ve ever given credence to the idea that the gay agenda is harmful to our children, I’m looking at you. If you’ve ever called being transgender a “delusion” that’s harmful to feed into, I’m looking at you. If you casually laugh at or make awful jokes at the expense of queer and trans people, I’m looking at you.
We live in a culture where we condone hateful attitudes and then wash our hands when that hate inevitably leads to violence. We debate what can be done as a society and then do NOTHING. We’ve stopped holding our elected officials accountable for their conspicuous lack of action. In fact at this point our leaders have become so impotent in the face of an apathetic society and their paychecks from the NRA that they can barely be bothered to say more than some crap about thoughts and prayers. I don’t want my elected leader’s thoughts or their prayers. I want their vote. I want their action. I want them to do the job they were elected to do and act to keep me safe.
I’m going to continue to make bigots uncomfortable because I’m not going away. I will be at Cincinnati Pride this year. June is Pride Month and I WILL celebrate my existence this with my community. I will not be cowed by threats of violence or hateful bigots spouting bible verses at me from the side of the street. In defiance of their hate and in defiance of their theology, I WILL exist, and I will exist visibly. I will keep putting pressure on our elected officials, our allies, and those in our society who are complacent. My life and the lives of those in the queer and trans community are precious, and I will not rest until they are treated as such.
I say above that I lay the blame for this tragedy squarely at the feet of the American religious right. After taking a deep breath and doing some thinking, I realize that sort of misses the point.
The fact is, this guy was a Muslim, and was apparently motivated by his faith to take the actions he did. That fact has to be a part of this conversation. The homophobia and transphobia that exists in large swaths of Muslim communities, and indeed the violence they perpetrate against members of their own communities who are queer and/or trans must be a part of the conversation. We must be willing to call this what it is.
The broader point that I was trying to make, and I realize now I did a poor job of making it in typing furiously while angry as opposed to taking the time to think things through, is that we live in a culture where the American religious right does allow and encourage these things to happen. We MUST speak of this person and his motivations, and be willing to call them what they are. What we can’t afford to let slide is the fact that the religious right in our country has created a climate that is permissive, and even passive in these situations. It’s the Christian right who has made guns so incredibly easy to obtain and fought tooth and nail against any attempt to address that. It is the Christian religious right that has made our culture so averse to criticizing bad religious ideas.
I think part of the disconnect here may be that I can’t see this as an isolated incident. As a member of the LGBTQ community, I can’t help but see this in the broader context of the violence perpetrated against us all too often by Christian religious extremists. And I also can’t help but notice the people who are ready to dogpile when a Muslim does it, who were largely silent when it’s someone with other motivations. Obviously this is a bigger event with a higher number of casualties and a more spectacular way of carrying it out. This will, of course, play a factor in who speaks out and with how much emotion. I can’t help but wonder, though if simply the opportunity to jump on Islam is the reason people are speaking out so voraciously in this case when other violence against us goes so largely ignored in broader society.
I don’t know if cultural pressure toward tolerance and acceptance would’ve made a difference in this particular situation. If typical extremist attitudes are any indication, it very well may not have. I don’t know if stronger gun laws would’ve stopped him or made his attack less horrific. The argument for gun laws is never that they will prevent every tragedy, but that it might made them far more rare. This might have been the one that got past whatever measures we put in place. The point is, we don’t know the answers to these questions because our culture is still permissive to gun violence, and it is still permissive to violence against the LGBTQ community.
I think, at the end of the day, what I blame the Christian right in the US for is not this specific situation, but the fact that I was not shocked or surprised by any of this. I blame the Christian right for the fact that we can’t just call this a horrible tragedy and move on. This attack was spectacular in its scope, but it is far from an isolated incident. I blame the Christian right for the fact that I know there will be more of these, and that it won’t just be Muslims committing these acts of violence.