I found out about the Orlando shooting around 5pm my time yesterday. As soon as I found out, I was horrified. My stomach knotted up, I felt nauseous and I was filled with anger. I don’t get truly angry often and very rarely to the point of nausea and crying, but I was outraged. How could someone enter a place of joy, community, and acceptance and butcher over 50 people leaving another over 50 harmed? How is it even possible for one man to do that? I was so angry and hurt and I didn’t know what to do with that anger. I called my mom because I just didn’t know what to do with myself. I couldn’t stop the tears and I couldn’t relinquish the anger. We talked for about an hour. We talked about how that could have happened anywhere and it could still happen anywhere. We talked about how I could be in a gay bar one day and another shooting could happen. We talked about my decision to finally come out to Facebook as pansexual (instead of just the five people who read this blog). She congratulated me and concurred that now, more than ever, is a time to stand proud for who I am. Most importantly, we talked about anger, hate, and discrimination. I told her that more than anything else, I wish I was in America right now to stand proud with my LGBTQ+ community and rally and fight for our rights and lives. But in the end, it’s not about fighting, it’s about loving. Finally, my anger started to ebb.
A man who can mentally make the decision to walk into a bar with semi-automatic weapons with the intent to kill people who’s lifestyles were not the same as his, obviously has something going on in his brain that I can’t understand. Maybe he had a past trauma that has affected him, maybe he was born with some gene for bigotry, or maybe he had an influence pushing these ignorant beliefs at him until he succumbed to them. I will never know, but what I do know is that I would never want to live a life with that much hate in my heart. For that reason, I feel sorry for him. I wish his life had been filled with joy and love for all of humanity, because, I can assure you, it’s a much easier and lovelier existence. I, in no way, am condoning what he did. He committed a horrible, outrageous act of hate, but for me to turn that hate around on him, would only hurt me, not him. So instead, I am going to extend love to him and his family, and everyone who was affected by this tragedy, because that is the only way this kind of change can come.
This was a horrible act of violence toward the LGBTQ+ community, but it was more than that. It was an act of violence towards humanity. People do not choose their sexual orientation. I did not wake up one day and say, “Oh, I think I’d really love to be pansexual and feel the need to hide any romantic relationships I’ve had with women so that I don’t get judged by my religious and ignorant extended family and society.” Why would I choose that? And more importantly, why should it matter? My being pansexual has not affected anyone else besides the people that I have been romantically involved with. I have tons of female friends who are not worried about me pushing unwanted sexual advances on them, because not being heterosexual, or in other cases not being cisgender, does not make us rapists. First and foremost, we are human beings. We don’t decide what race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, sex, gender, or even religion to be. I think that we are born into this world with our brain thinking one thing, and maybe our body doesn’t match that. We can choose some things, like to change our gender or religion, but those choices are what we really are in our brains not something that we just decide on a whim. We find the things in life that fit us best. I didn’t grow up thinking I was pansexual, but through years of exploring who I am, I discovered a term that fit me better than anything else. Because that is what these things are, they’re labels. We label ourselves and are labeled by others to fit into categories. But first and foremost, we’re human beings. We all have that in common and we are all just trying to live the best lives we can live. So why is there so much hatred? Why do these labels matter?
Trump is stirring up this hatred toward “the other”. What is “the other”? If we’re fighting against everything that makes us different, we’re fighting against everyone. No one has the exact same opinions, thoughts, feelings, history, etc… as you. We should be embracing our differences and learning from each other instead of trying to make everyone conform to one set of ideals. I can understand wanting to be like other people. I can understand envying someones body type, or their social class, but I would never want to be straight just to fit into someones outdated beliefs. I would never want to be a man, just so that I wouldn’t have to face the misogyny and sexism that I do. I would never want to have been raised in an affluent family, just so that I could have never struggled with money. I wouldn’t even want someone else’s body type at this point. I love who I am and I love the things that make me different from others. Life would be so boring if we all had the exact same skin tone, eye color, sexual orientation, job, religion, etc… Why is that a world people want to live in? Unfortunately, with the way America is going, wanting to be who you are can also lead to fear. Fear that someone is going to bring a semi-automatic to a concert, church, night club, school, movie theater, really any place with a large amount of people being who they are. We are being taught to fear who we are or others who don’t fit a mold, and that isn’t OK.
The United States of America is based off of immigration. We should be celebrating that we are the country of freedom that people want to, or wanted to as the case may be at this point, live in. We are supposed to be a United People with individual rights, responsibilities, and freedoms. Now I know that the right to bear arms is one of those rights we were founded on, but when someone has the ability to extinguish 50 people’s right to live, that’s no longer promoting freedom. Our country has gone from one of freedom and liberty, to one of fear and hatred. We fear and hate what we do not know. This goes both ways. People who are being oppressed and attacked fear and hate their perpetrators and people who are oppressing and attacking, fear and hate their victims. How do we stop fear and hate? By educating ourselves and others. By getting to know people who possess a trait that you don’t understand. By listening to our children, siblings, friends, neighbors, and communities speak about the love they possess for another human being instead of listening to hate speech or choosing passages from an outdated and very subjective book that fit the hate you want to spread. We should all be embracing our whole identities, but more than that, we should be embracing our humanity.
I know that bigotry, ignorance, and hate are not that easy to extinguish. Definitely not as easy as the 50 lives that were taken yesterday, but we have to try. We have to try to spread the love that we have and show that “the other” is not something to fear, but instead something to learn from and get to know. We can’t accomplish this through hate or fear; you can’t eliminate a flood with more water. We have to fight hate with love. I love all human beings, but I would love them even more if they took the time to educate themselves and those around them. Love can win.
Something else that we can do that may have more immediate effects, is to work on policy change. We need to make gun safety our biggest priority. We are only half way through the year and we have had 173 shootings. 173! This is insanity to me. We are not safe anywhere with semi-automatic weapons on the streets. How is this acceptable? I don’t know a lot about politics and I don’t know a lot about policy change. Even still, I have hope and enough knowledge to know that this can change. We can be the change that we want to see in the world if enough people stand up and make it happen. I am going to educate myself on politics, policy, and everything else I can get my hands on surrounding this issue. This is not just an issue of LGBTQ+ rights; this is an issue of human rights and gun reform. I hope you decide to take action as well, even if that is just you educating yourself further and those around you. Don’t just say “praying for Orlando” and forget about it a week later. MAKE CHANGE!