By now, you probably should have heard about the United States’ biggest mass shooting in history, which was targeted at Pulse, an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It has become abundantly evident that this was an attack on the LGBT community because of the shooter, Omar Mateen, and his negative attitude toward homosexuality. It has started several conversations about society’s attitude toward the LGBT community, gun control, and how acts of terror aren’t just from groups that the media wants you to believe are evil. Personally, I think these are all conversations that we need to be having, but it’s sad that it took such a tragic event for it to finally be a rally for action. 

This shooting hit me harder than any of the other countless shootings we’ve had in this country. It’s not that the others still weren’t sad for me, but because this happened to a community that I’m a part of, it was a harsh reminder that there are still people who hate us enough to open-fire at hundreds of innocent people. This was the first mass shooting where I felt the gut-wrenching, heavy-hearted feeling that it could happen to me, and it could happen by someone who hates the LGBT community just as much, or even more than Omar Mateen. All of the deceased just wanted to go out and have fun in a place where they weren’t judged for something society condemns, only to wind up dead because one hateful person was angry. It’s not that we weren’t aware that people hate us that much, because we have constant reminders of that every day. From small things like our favorite TV shows either not representing or mis-representing our community, to politicians trying to pass bills that would legalize discrimination against us, we’re reminded every day that there are people who think we don’t belong. It’s not usually that painful of a reminder though, until another one of us winds up dead by someone’s Grade A, United States-raised hate against sexual minorities.

Though the biggest focus of this shooting should be about the deceased, the survivors, and those who have to deal with the aftermath, we can’t ignore that this was a homophobic attack. To ignore that fact would mean that we’re ignoring that there are people with that kind of hate inside them. We’ve made progress, sure, but progress doesn’t make all the hate disappear. Our successes make these people angry, and though it can be easy to ignore their anger after years of having to do so, it’s dangerous to regard that anger as simply a feeling. It’s scary that people still feel this way about us, but it’s terrifying once that hate turns into action. I can say with confidence that we’re tired of being the victims of a bigoted opinion turned lethal. 

The best thing we can do to move forward is to continue to have pride in ourselves as the LGBT community. Continue to hold hands in the street, continue to dance at your favorite clubs with that boy or girl you like, and continue to remind those against us that we’re not going anywhere. If we lived like we were scared of another Omar Mateen coming in and shooting up another one of our clubs, then that would be the white flag surrendering to homophobia. We cannot let homophobia win. We cannot let it break us. But what we can do is continue to love each other, and continue to support each other in these tragic times. We’re one big family, after all. The way we come together after these hardships, despite all of the times we disagree and discriminate in our own little bubble, proves that our bonds are stronger than we think.

 The deceased victims of the Pulse shooting in Orlando, Florida. (Source: NY Daily News)
The deceased victims of the Pulse shooting in Orlando, Florida. (Source: NY Daily News)

And in order to be there for each other, we have to focus on the love, and not the hate. Recognize that there are people out there who celebrated 49 beautiful lives dying because of who they were, but don’t amplify it. Let it burn out like a candle that’s running out of wax. We don’t need to immerse ourselves in more hate to overcome it. Instead of spreading the hateful messages, spread love. Tell people you care about them, and be there for the people who need it. Show those who are scared to be out in this hateful world that, for every hateful person, there are several loving people who want them to be happy through living their lives authentically.

For anyone who wants to help the cause, here is a link to a GoFundMe page put up by Equality Florida to support the victims of the Pulse shooting. I will also be donating.

I’ll end with a quote I found spreading around the internet, which I feel is the biggest bit of truth out of anything said about this tragedy. 

You say, ‘How could this tragedy happen?’ It happened because Omar Mateen’s hate was born and bred in America, not overseas. Just 2 weeks ago you were calling trans women child predators. 1 year ago you were saying that our marriages shouldn’t be recognized. 6 years ago you were saying that gay men and women couldn’t die for their country. 10 years ago you told us we didn’t deserve job protections. 13 years ago it took Lawrence v. Texas to decriminalize our sex lives. 18 years ago you took Matthew Sheppard. 23 years ago you took Brandon Teena. 36 years the American Government began their 5 years of silence as 10,000 gay men were massacred by the AIDS virus. 43 years ago we were still considered mentally ill. And 47 years ago the riots of Stonewall began. For centuries this country has bred homophobia into our history, into our schools, and into the very fabric of society. Omar Mateen was the product of American hate…America, you taught him this and even sold him the gun to do it.

— Elle Barts

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