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Orlando Tragic

Vigil in Minneapolis for victims of Pulse nightclub shooting

Sunday – June 12, 2016

I woke up this morning, a little after 9, and as I ordinarily do – to try and help me choose getting out of bed to start my day rather than choosing to roll over and avoid the day by oversleeping – I reached for my phone and began the daily check of my social media and e-mails.

There wasn’t much of importance on my Facebook other than a few irrelevant notifications, so I decided to check out Twitter. I checked my couple of notifications and then began scrolling through the home screen to see if there was anything that would catch my eye. I’d only gone to bed a little after 1, so I wasn’t expecting much as there’s usually not much that happens during the wee hours of a Sunday morning. Usually the weekdays have the bigger events and updates, or at least it seems to me.

I noticed someone making a comment about guns and mental health which I liked since it was at least discussing mental health. That being said, I still hesitated a moment because I also don’t like when gun violence is chalked up to being a problem caused by mental illness, especially since the mentally ill are much more apt to be victims as opposed to perpetrators of violence. While some people with mental illness have used guns to harm others, I don’t believe that’s a direct result of their illness. I believe we have a culture which often values violence, only selectively proscribing and condemning it. Mental illness or not, people learn (incorrectly) that violence is a way to solve problems and feel better. Unfortunately this is a lie which is perpetuated time and again whenever violence is publicly applauded rather than condemned or regretted.

In any event, after I liked that tweet, I continued to scroll and then saw another tweet about gun violence. I was beginning to sense a pattern. Then I saw more and they were mentioning “Orlando”. And then more and they were saying “LGBT” … “gay” … “gay club” … “night club shooting” … and I started to feel numb.

I honestly haven’t responded emotionally yet. I am writing this a little after 6pm on Sunday. I don’t feel anything, other than a sense of anxiety and perhaps tension. I’ve been thinking about it throughout the day. Thinking about those people in that nightclub. Thinking about what must’ve happened. Thinking about my own experience coming out during Pride 7 years ago. About the sheer ecstasy which I felt when I was celebrating with all these people who were like me, but also so diverse, and yet all partying and playing together. How happy I felt. How I wished everyone in the world could come and join us. Spend time with us. Dress up and feel good about themselves. Not worry about having to act “normal” or conform to certain societal norms. Just to have fun and play authentically. I was thinking about experiencing that amazing sense of jubilation, only to have it interrupted by intense horror.

And the timing is so sickening. It’s Pride. Pride is like Christmas for many in the LGBT community. Traditionally its when we all gather together to celebrate our community, our culture, our history, one another. We see people we may not have seen throughout the year due to where we live, or our schedules, or whatever the case may be. It’s a time to be “gay” in both the old and contemporary sense of the word.

For many who may not celebrate Christmas or other traditional holidays with their families, because they’ve either been cast out or other rifts exist because of their queer identity, Pride is a time to celebrate with your gay “family”. You are not related by blood, but there is an authenticity, understanding and affection which is felt because of your shared identity. “I don’t know you that well, but I know that you’ve most likely suffered for just being who you are and that is painful so I respect you and care about you” – this is my inner monologue, so to speak, when I meet another LGBT person.

So if you can imagine the sense of warmth and comfort that you experience around close friends or family (assuming you have a positive experience of family life) – that’s what it is like, for me at least, to be around gays. And at Pride this feeling is enhanced even more so because it is our holiday season.

I have a family member who is familiar with the club because they were living in Orlando when they first came out, so this event must impact them in a way that I can’t understand. For him this isn’t just an other news story about a homophobic hate crime, this place relates to his personal history – his memories and experiences. Whatever visions, smells, etc. he retains from this space, it has now been interrupted and polluted by this tragedy. Those memories have been altered and poisoned, or so I would imagine.

I have no answers and nothing profound to share. I don’t have any place to lay blame. This event has brought up many issues: homophobia, gun violence, hate, islamophobia, xenophobia. There is so much that is tragic and nauseating about this event.

I am still processing what has happened and just feel heavy and upset that it happened. It’s so shameful. I believe in God and I believe God’s Heart bleeds today and all of Heaven mourns, as they do whenever we humans do such cruel and unloving things. People say when the world got revolting enough, the Great Flood of the Hebrew Bible was a sign of God’s Anger. I wonder if it might not have been a sign of God’s sorrow.

As we all cope with the pain, sadness, anger, horror and whatever other thoughts, feelings and emotions we may be experiencing, I encourage everyone to take time to care for themselves and support those around them who are hurting. I also encourage you to seek support from a trained professional if you find yourself particularly disturbed and unsettled – I’ve found this particularly helpful myself in the past when feeling overwhelmed. Regardless of how you cope, please take care.

Thursday – June 16, 2016

It’s been 4 days since the attack. While I am feeling less anxious at this point (no doubt due to some separation from the event itself and adequate distraction in the meantime) I am still quite disturbed at what happened, and now too by some of the reaction which I’ve seen in response to the event.

Some have used this attack to scapegoat Muslim immigrants, blaming an entire people for the actions of one deeply disturbed individual. An attack on minorities (LGBT latinos) has led to a counter-attack, again on minorities (Muslim immigrants). I think this demonstrates what they call the contagious nature of violence and conflict – when one event happens it can spur other events in reaction.

Islam is not to blame for the massacre on Sunday. Nor is immigration. I’m Catholic and of Irish descent – throughout the last century, some of the highest profile cases of terrorism were perpetrated by deranged Irish Catholics in Ireland and UK who, via the Irish Republican Army, were killing “in the name of their people”. And they were funded in part by American sympathizers of Irish Catholic descent. Violence knows no race, religion, ethnicity or nationality.

Something both LGBT people and Muslims in the United States share in common (despite the effort of some to paint them as diametrically opposed groups) is the experience of minority stress. Due to our difference (from the dominant culture) and our status as marginalized populations, both groups are subject to systemic stressors which can negatively impact our physical an mental health.

That being said, the appropriate response to Sunday’s tragedy is not to “Ban Muslims” but rather to create a more just and equal society where people are less apt to experience minority stress and where issues such as homophobia and islamophobia are far less common. And of course there’s also the whole issue of access to methods of deadly force – a.k.a. guns – but I’ll save that for another post.

One Reply to “Orlando Tragic”

  1. Kevin A. says:

    Thanks for sharing your powerful thoughts Brian.
    Its really sad!
    Not many people want talk about the issue of homophobia, but its still ‘alive and well’ throughout American society.
    So quickly, so many innocent lives lost, its really unbelievable.

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