Orlando

Orlando June 12, 2016

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.

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  • Slograman

    This event was such a collision of so many problems in our society. Massacre-grade guns, deadly homophobia, and draconian religious beliefs were shaken up in the jar of this man’s head, and this is the result we get. I have a few conservative friends that I haven’t been able to talk to about this yet. I don’t even know where to start. I never do when it comes to massacres. Any ideas, internet? Maybe comparisons to Stonewall, or Australia’s Port Arthur massacre, or any given religiously-driven killings?

    • Whenever my conservative sister tried to protest the “audacity” of the homosexual community to make this a “hate crime” or mention the Christian right, I just mentioned the many tweets by Christians condemning the victims to hell, including one deplorable post by a leader in Texas, and the fact that ISIS has indeed called for the murder of homosexuals.
      Her reply? That the TX post wasn’t exactly “tactful” but it was still a Muslim and not Christian perpetrator…as though their bigotry regarding the trans community yesterday and LGBTQ rights in general occurred in a vacuum.

      This hate crime was by a Muslim extremist.

      Of greater note IMO is the Christian right’s ignorance in being offended that those they condemned yesterday might reject their prayers today.
      Seems those who differentiate only by degrees of hate don’t understand that the existence of the hatred to begin with is the problem, whatever its origin, and that condemning a person’s entire identity does equal hate in the eyes of the condemned–regardless of whether or not the right “gets it.”

      If I only had the guts to say ALL of this to them, and not just the first part…

  • igotbanned999

    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.

    There are already enough things to blame them for without adding a new one that they had nothing to do with. The shooter was Muslim, not Christian. You can’t lay this one on the Evangelicals.

    • Nemo

      Your words are wasted. She’s digging herself deeper here.

      • ohnugget001

        You ain’t kidding.

  • ohnugget001

    “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.”

    I can’t agree with your conclusion there at all. This one is to be squarely lain at the feet of Islam, not Christianity, if a religion is to bear any blame. No matter how much I may agree with your other sentiments in this article, to suggest that a Muslim committing mass murder of LGTB peoples after having called 911 to declare his actions in the name of ISIS can be attributable to any form of Christianity is ridiculous. It’s absolutely ludicrous and I hope you come to your senses and retract that statement after having had some time to reconsider it.

    • ahermit
      • ohnugget001

        Sure. The difference in doctrine is subtle if it exists at all. But the practical difference is huge. One wishes they were dead, the other did something about it.

        • ahermit
          • ohnugget001

            Homeless Vietnam vet with PTSD kills person in a bar because they made fun of his last name? That happens to be “Gay”?
            That’s far less an OT Christian themed problem than a psychologically impaired individual taking his problems out on a bully. We don’t even know if he actually is a Christian – he certainly never claims what he did was in the name of a religion.
            I think you’re reaching, here. I get the point you’re attempting to make, but…

    • Callie Wright

      Nope, after further consideration I stand by my conclusion. The homophobia that exists in many Muslim communities should 100% be a part of this conversation. However, it is not conservative Muslims who have made guns easier to get than medicine in many parts of our country. It is not conservative Muslims that signal boost hatred in media outlets all across our country. It is not conservative Muslims who have created a climate in our country that is permissive and even passive about this kind of violence. The Christian right has done all of that. A radical Muslim ideology may have played a part in this particular incident, yes. But it is conservative Christians who continually feed the environment that allowed it to happen. So maybe I should have been a bit more nuanced, but as a whole my statement stands.

      • Nemo

        You do realize that Muslims and Christians hate the LGBT community independent of each other, right?

        • Callie Wright

          You do realize I’m talking specifically about the United States right? A country where Muslims have never had any sort of appreciable power or influence?

          • Nemo

            And the shooter was a Muslim, motivated by his Muslim faith. He probably didn’t care what the Christians thought. Hell, he probably considered Christians to be his enemies, seeing as how they are statistically more likely to oppose Islam.

          • Callie Wright

            Living in a country that routinely tolerates anti LGBT violence and makes it very easy to commit by making the weapons to do it readily available. You’re missing the broader point I’m trying to make. An individual and their individual motivations are relevant. What is more relevant is the culture and society that enables these things. As in the Christian right fighting tooth and nail to make sure people like this can access the weapons they need to commit these acts of violence, for one.

          • Nemo

            You have provided no evidence that the shooter was motivated by what is said in American discourse, which is quite relevant given that Islamists tend to emphasize not conforming to Western norms. You’ve simply said that American discourse allows prejudice, but that isn’t the same as establishing that someone who is well outside the mainstream of American discourse is motivated by it. As for the point about weapons, you might be interested to know that I’ve seen a few LGBT groups talking about arming themselves after this incident. Possession of weapons goes both ways.

      • ohnugget001

        “However, it is not conservative Muslims who have made guns easier to get than medicine in many parts of our country.”
        Well, your hyperbole regarding medicine aside, it certainly wasn’t entirely Christians who did either. Remember, many of those Founding Fathers who insisted on the 2A were Deists. They all recognized the need for the People to have arms,

        “It is not conservative Muslims that signal boost hatred in media outlets all across our country. ”
        Do you really believe that this factored into *this* man’s decision to follow *his* religious dictates? I can’t believe that you really do.

        “It is not conservative Muslims who have created a climate in our country that is permissive and even passive about this kind of violence.”
        In what way do you think that factors into *this* individual’s decision? Hell, I’m not even sure what you mean here.

        “A radical Muslim ideology may have played a part in this particular incident, yes.”
        Well I would certainly hope you’d admit this.

        “But it is conservative Christians who continually feed the environment that allowed it to happen.”
        Huh? What? How? What in the world does this sentence even mean?

        “So maybe I should have been a bit more nuanced,…..”
        Actually, no. I’d appreciate it if you’d be less nuanced and more specific. For instance, I’m struggling to see any links between Christianity and this man’s actions which were based upon Islam, his religious beliefs. Maybe you should take more than an hour or two to reflect on your response this time rather than act while still emotional on the topic. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be upset, just that that your argument appears to be suffering due to it at the moment.

  • Nemo

    Uh……….. no. While the Christian right is hardly virtuous in this scenario, Islam has been homophobic long before there was an American evangelical movement. Your statement is objectively false. I am an atheist, and I just had to defend the religious right. You did this to me.

    • Callie Wright

      In fact, in the United States, the Christian right basically invented homophobia.

      Emphasis on “in The United States.” Last time I checked there was never a time when any form of Muslim culture steered our country’s discourse

      • Nemo

        And is there any evidence that the shooter was motivated by American discourse as opposed to the Quran? No? I didn’t think so.

        • Callie Wright

          You can speak of something that enables an act independently of what motivates the act. A person can be motivated by a hateful ideology but be prevented from acting on it if the culture around them is intolerant of that kind of action, and takes steps to prevent people from obtaining the means to do so.

          • Nemo

            I’m pretty sure that American culture isn’t exactly fond of shooting up military bases or marathons, but that didn’t stop the shooter at Fort Hood or the Boston Marathon bombers.

          • Callie Wright

            You sure we’re not that fond of it? People tend to take action to prevent things they’re not fond of, and we’ve done exactly fuck all in the wake of those things. So you tell me…

          • ohnugget001

            Oh, please. We have laws against shooting people. We have police forces. We have self-defense rights legally acknowledged. We have a variety of preventative measures in place. Your only problem is you don’t think it’s enough, that’s all. You’re simply ignoring everything we *do* do to prevent crimes from occurring to be able to make your crank claims that we’re fond of crimes.

      • ohnugget001

        Have you ever heard of the Barbary Wars?

  • Gotta laugh (bitterly) when I see people trying to draw a distinction between the violence against LGBT people between different Abrahamic religions. “One just talks hatred. The other advocates and carries out a death sentence.” and variations thereof.

    How young is the average person in blogging and social media spaces? Does anybody remember Matthew Shepard or Harvey Milk? The list of trans people killed in the US expands dramatically each year. That’s happening today.

    Furthermore, I’m in my late 40s. I remember the 80s well. Too well. Homo/transphobia wasn’t just a religious thing. EVERYONE hated us. Death and/or assault waited just around the corner if you were too open about who you are. Sometimes the assailant was a religious asshole. Sometimes the assailant was a macho asshole with something to prove about his masculinity. Atheists hated us too. There have been no shortage of hateful people in my lifetime. Some of them wielded bibles, some an empty can of beer, and others a science textbook.

    Do traditional variants of religion serve as a retarding force in social change for queer people? Yes, most certainly. But I’ll tell you what, there’s a shit-ton of transphobes in atheist spaces. I’ve encountered them in the comment sections of Patheos, on campus when I was in college, and among (former) friends in my hometown. Ultimately, prejudice knows no religion. Assholes are never in short supply.

    • Callie Wright

      You make some very good points here. I don’t think anyone would deny the homo/transphobia, and indeed the sexism and racism that exists in atheist spaces. I’ve experienced it myself. But we can’t act as is the people doing these things with religious motivations don’t have the ultimate authority figure cheering them on. I still believe that a secular worldview is the most most conducive to equitable views on social issues, but it’s certainly no guarantee of that.

  • Callie Wright

    After taking a deep breath and doing some thinking, I think some of the criticism voiced here is fair. I’m going to take some time to write a thoughtful edit.

    • ohnugget001

      Thank you. I really do look forward to talking with you more about it. Hopefully tomorrow. Take care.