By now, if you haven’t accepted the fact that the Orlando shootings were homophobic in nature, you’re living in a state of delusion I somewhat envy. Conversely, to those of us living in reality, it was a blatantly homophobic attack tinged with religious extremism. While it’s encouraging that such a broad range of people have shown overwhelming sympathy and support, it’s farcical to ignore the fact that any attack of this sort has very real implications for the LGBT community. It was only last year that we were commemorating marriage equality, an enormous milestone in both American and LGBT history alike, and now, here we are a year later being served a grave reminder that, to some, our innate sexual orientation still carries a stigma among a far-too-large portion of the population.
The LGBT community has never been one that bows easily to intimidation, but we’re right back where we were nearly two decades when ago when Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. were brutalized and left for dead, and we were subsequently left fearing for our safety. The silver lining is that their deaths brought about the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (a decade after the fact, but I digress), which made it a federal crime to commit a crime motivated by a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The actuality is that we’re now in a position where we once again have to be cautious about our welfare, even more so than usual.
What the general population doesn’t understand on the whole is that you don’t have to be a murderous, gun-wielding lunatic to inflict injury upon the LGBT community. It’s fortunate that a majority of the country is in favor of seemingly simple ideas like marriage equality, but there are significant factions of people who disagree under the guise of religion and things of the sort. Using something like religion to justify discrimination against LGBT people (or any other group for that matter) inadvertently promotes hostility towards said group of people, so by being an asshole, you’re enabling other assholes to act in the same manner.
Nightmarish scenarios like the one that presented itself in Orlando (and Sandy Hook, Aurora, Virginia Tech, etc.) tend to bring us closer together as a populace, but like so many highs, the novelty of it quickly wears off. Let’s break that habit and not let this sense of camaraderie wear off like it so frequently has in the past. Like Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr.’s deaths, let’s not allow the travesty in Orlando to be without recompense. The Orlando shooting was the 173rd mass shooting in 164 days in the U.S. so far this year. That’s a sobering statistic. It’s time to stop debating the reasoning behind Omar Mateen’s actions and do something to ensure we don’t have to endure yet another tragedy.