It’s hard to stop crying today.
It’s hard to not curl up in a little ball and erect mental mountain chains around the room of my mind.
The worst mass shooting in American history, and it happened to MY community. Yeah, I’ve only been to Orlando once, and I’ve never been to Pulse, the nightclub where 50 people were killed and another 54 injured, and I don’t actually have any gay friends where I live right now in my tiny little town–
But it’s still my community that’s affected, and it resurrects about every fear I can think of right now about what it means to live in the USA as a gay woman.
So many thoughts that need to get out of my head and onto paper or shouted at someone. That’s how I spent yesterday, wanting to pick a fight with any person who looked at me, wanting to know if they secretly thought the victims “deserved” their “fate” by engaging in an “immoral lifestyle.”
I’m so angry.
And I don’t want any prayers. Rather, I don’t just want those words of “I’m praying for the people of Orlando!” thrown out as a way to absolve oneself of responsibility for HELPING TO CREATE this crisis in addition to the sweeping epidemic of gun violence in our country.
That’s what really makes me angry. Let’s be honest here for a moment, shall we?
If when you “pray” for others you try to get them to change into what you want them to be, you’ve contributed to violence.
If you support legislation like North Carolina’s “Bathroom Law” and make yourself feel better with believing lies about which groups are most likely to sexually molest a child, you’ve contributed to violence.
If you support conversion therapy and debunked groups like Exodus International or their parent organizations like Focus on the Family who regularly insist that homosexuality is twisted, perverse, abominable, unnatural, and disgusting, you have contributed to violence.
If you’ve ever thought, said, and/or (silently) agreed with the phrase (or ANY variation thereof), “I don’t have a problem with gays/queers/fags/dykes/trannies, I just don’t want to see/hear/watch them,” thereby denying the LGBTQI+ community the right to representation, NOT ONLY ARE YOU A LIAR, but you have contributed to violence.
Shall I go on? I could. All day long. And I haven’t even made it to the gun control thoughts yet.
If anyone at this point is flaring up defensively, either stop reading (not recommended) or take a breath, check your cis-hetero privilege, and think about the truth behind what I’ve said.
When people engage in those behaviors and use those words that deny members of a group the right to exist free of harm, it adds up to create a culture of prejudice and violence against that group.
As you can see from the pyramid above, personal bias leads to prejudice at the micro level. The name-calling, ridicule, etc, effectively begins to dehumanize the targeted group. The dehumanization leads to active discrimination. Discrimination leads to violence at the individual and group levels. And that can ultimately lead to the attempted annihilation of the group–in this case, the LGBTQI+ community.
The thing is, if you “don’t agree” with “the homosexual lifestyle,” not only are you uninformed and bigoted, but you’re also toxic. The culture of prejudice against the LGBTQI+ community is so vast, so deep-rooted, that it has led to internalized prejudice, causing many gay, lesbian, queer, nonbinary people to become deeply depressed or suicidal, seeing themselves as the monsters or freaks that society or their personal culture says they are.
In many cases of internalized prejudice, members of the marginalized group will even act against their own happiness because they believe they don’t deserve to be happy. I did this myself. I wrote my senator when I was 18 years old and attending Bob Jones University, begging her to support the Defense of Marriage Act. I’d recently begun to suspect that the stirrings I felt toward some of the girls in my dorm were more than platonic in nature, and I desperately needed to be accepted by the school culture so that I would feel safe. Because of my short haircut and “strange” outfits (I was constantly asked, “Are you an art major?” since my wardrobe consisted of more than jumper dresses and culottes), I was already targeted by guys who felt threatened (“Are you one of those feminists? You must be! You’re probably a lezzie, too!”) and by girls who wanted holiness points (“When I saw you wearing shorts in front of your roommate in your room yesterday, I felt spiritually obligated to report it to Ms. Simms because I’m concerned for your testimony.”).
It was a very toxic environment for me, and luckily I found a place to transfer to after more than halfway completing my course of study.
THE POINT IS, however, that no one gets a free pass to make jokes and comments and be disrespectful to marginalized groups like the LGBTQI+ community. You either step up and confront your own prejudice and CHANGE it (which is a process, believe me, but it’s possible and it’s good), or step up and confront your own prejudice and ADMIT it’s there and that you’re a bigot.
Don’t make excuses in the name of religion or how you were raised or not knowing any better. If you’re online, you can know better. If you can have a conversation, you can know better. If you CHOOSE not to know better, then you STILL know better.
If any of this is hitting home for you, then do something. Make a change. Take action. Write your senators and local officials, urging them to speak out against violent rhetoric and actions. Go to a PFLAG meeting and listen. Donate blood. Donate to your local LGBT community center. Volunteer at your local LGBT community center. Say something instead of silently standing by when those around you choose to engage in harmful speech. Talk to your god/gods/goddess(es) then talk to others about what you’ve learned about yourself and others.
But keep your prayers if that’s all you’re going to do. We don’t need your prayers. We need your action.