A Muslim-Raised Queer Responds to the Orlando Shooting


Plus an open thread and group hug

by Najva Sol, Brand Director

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The largest American mass shooting of the last century happened in the early hours of Sunday morning in Orlando, Florida, at a gay club celebrating a Latinx dance night featuring transwomen performers. This happened during Pride Month, and Ramadan. The same day, another armed shooter was caught on the way to LA Pride. You probably know this. Or at least, most of this.

I’ve been in Bali, glued to my computer since the story broke. Far away from all the candlelight vigils and blood bank donation lines, all I’ve had is the Internet to keep me connected to my communities.

The first article I read called the shooting an act of terrorism, but didn’t tell me who the shooter was. I guessed (with a sense of impending dread) that he wasn’t a white guy, or they would have been throwing around the phrase “mental illness,” and we were probably about to hear a Muslim name. I was right.

Hate is hate is hate is hate

Shortly after the number switched from 20 dead to 49 dead, 50+ wounded. I couldn’t look away as we, the collective online existence, learned that the shooter beat his ex-wife, was on an FBI watch list, had become publicly enraged at two men kissing, had legally been allowed to buy an assault rifle.

I read all the stories about cops coming into the nightclub hearing the discarded cell phones ringing with calls from desperate family members. I learned how the shooting was forcibly outing victims. I saw my queer POC community and my Muslim/Middle Eastern community band together in a united front as if to say: Our grief is not an invitation for hatred. My feed flowed with political ideas, urges to fight, petitions, calls to change policy, reminders that Pride Month started from a raid in a gay bar—but also—photos of queer people kissing, holding candles, putting on drag, choosing joy. A fund was started to support the victims and their families. Gay Muslims were posting to remind the world that the two identities are not disparate. Straight/Christian allies were fighting on our behalf in the media, reminding people that the toxic everyday homophobia that we live and breathe in America is deeply rooted in conservative Christianity. And while this hate crime was perpetrated by a recent Muslim, he was also a US born-and-bred citizen, picking up all the hate that fundamentalist Christians have been putting down. Extreme Islam is not alone in preaching homophobia, and frankly, his prejudice was documented far before he identified as such.

What it feels like to be a queer Muslim right now

And all that news leaves me—a Middle Eastern queer person, raised Muslim—barely able to get out of bed today. My neck hurts from spending 24 hours with my head over my cell phone hoping to ease the isolation. Because, yes, a tragedy of this scale has the potential to inspire deep change. It may be change of the terrifying variety, pushing through the 200+ anti-LGBT bills introduced this year, increasing attacks on Muslim folks, shutting out refugees. Or it may be change of the welcome variety: an open admittance to how homophobic rhetoric brews toxic conditions that led to this tragedy, more empathy between the oppressed, and policy change.

And I know that I will do whatever needs to be done. I will donate to the groups, and march in the marches. But first I need space to grieve: the loss in my extended community, the loss of my safe spaces. I spent much of my young adulthood at queer nightclubs, calling the dance floor my church, and dancing my meditation. It’s where I went to be less harassed, it’s where I went to kiss girls without men thinking it was an invitation, it’s where I went to just catch up with friends without worrying about patriarchy.

It’s not an accident when black folks get shot in a church, it’s not an accident when women get shot at Planned Parenthood, and it’s not an accident when LGBTQ folk are shot at a gay club. The hate is designed to make you feel less safe, to breed mistrust, to shrink you, to cause you to hesitate in living your truth.

it’s okay to heal before you fight back

Today, I wish I wasn’t in Bali. I wish I was at home, hugging my queer Latinx Floridian roommate. Because when you’re starting to feel small, there is strength in numbers. There’s healing in talking. There’s something powerful in catching one another as the shock throws us, and holding on through all the numbness, the sorrow, the rage.

And so, APW, here’s your space. For all of you, who like me, may not be close to people to support you. Or for those of you who want another place to speak your truths, or talk politics, or just get a virtual hug. Healing comes before going back out into the battlefield, and we need all the strength we’ve got.

We’re here for you, APW. Talk about whatever you need, share your Orlando stories, how the loss affects you, what you read that was funny, kittens, whatever your reactions are. And if it helps, this bunny gif is how I’m feeling about the internet right now. 

Najva Sol

Najva Sol is a queer Iranian-American writer, photographer, branding consultant, artist, and ex-poet.  She’s the token staff Slytherin and—while formally based in Brooklyn—tends to travel as much as possible. Storytelling is her life, but making chicken broth is a close second.
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  • Danielle

    Thank you for posting this, Najva. Yesterday morning I heard the news as I was packing to leave Florida. We were there for my father-in-law’s memorial. He was a gay man who lived with Husband’s dad for 13+ years in the 80s and 90s, when being queer was basically a crime in the Midwestern city where they lived. They lost many friends to AIDS, and saw partners erased out of obituaries, because of shame and fear. Husband was actually afraid that his other dad’s family would reject us from the service (they are devout Pentecostal ministers, omg, another story), but they were actually quite welcoming. Even though, out of all the family photos they had displayed in the church, none of them were of Husband’s dad, his life partner.

    Anyway, this is all to say: the mass shooting felt close to home. I see the justification for all that fear and shame of decades ago. So much has changed. So much has not. My heart goes out to the queer Orlando community, the queer Latin@ community, to Muslims everywhere who will surely face some awful retribution from conservatives who don’t give 1 shit about gay folks. I’m angry about gun control (or lack thereof) in this country.

    Anyway, strength to everyone today. And love, above all.

  • Abby

    “It’s not an accident when black folks get shot in a church, it’s not an accident when women get shot at planned parenthood, and it’s not an accident when LGBTQ folk are shot at a gay club. ”

    YES!

  • I’ve been trying to write about this for 2 days now. I came up in the clubs because it was where my friends and I could go to be safe and leave the world outside. I didn’t have to be on guard for them or me. I could just fucking dance to Madonna in peace and my meditation was chanting, singing at the top of my lungs. The best I have is teaching some yoga classes tonight with playlists of the songs we danced to. I guess, like you, I just need a minute. Love ya, Najva.

  • I’ve been a wreck since yesterday because I feel so close to this, yet so far away. I used to live in Orlando, and still have many friends there, some of who I haven’t heard from yet. I was also raised Muslim and feel a deep sensitivity and need to defend it when things like this happen, because close-minded people leap to conclusions about Islam that they don’t make about Christianity during a terror incident. And I weep inside for my many LGBT and Latina friends. I wish I was back in Orlando and could do more to help and provide support.

  • Lisa

    As I posted in Happy Hour, I was participating in a show this weekend, and it included an abridged musical number from the show Ragtime called “Till We Reach That Day.” When we stood on-stage and sang this Sunday afternoon, I thought of the shooting in Orlando and of all the innocent lives lost there and wept. Judging by the amount of tears I saw on my castmate’s faces as I walked off-stage, I don’t think I was the only one. The number is truly moving and powerful on its own, but I don’t think it had really gotten into our skin until that moment.

    I don’t have much to say that hasn’t already been said. I carry this quote from Leonard Bernstein in my heart as I continue performing this week: “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

    https://youtu.be/KjKX-4WOm_I?t=9s

  • Sarah McClelland

    Beautifully said… And I’m so glad for the group hug mentioned in the tagline. Our first response to something like this should be love. Always love.

  • scw

    you know, it hadn’t even occurred to me that this would out some victims (shows my privilege). the whole thing is so sad I can’t wrap my head around it. the news has been intolerable lately. I’ve just been trying to focus on the blood donors (john oliver’s thing on this was sweet)/the helpers/the bicyclists (stanford).

    I don’t really know what I’m trying to say, but I was hoping you’d pull your scheduled content today and do something like this – and I’m glad you did.

  • InTheBurbs

    As I’ve been processing this a particular scene from the West Wing keeps coming back to me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21eaubatLGc

    • Grace

      This is great and has reminded me I really need to move the West Wing up on my Netflix queue.

  • Lee
  • Fiona

    My eyes and nose are dripping all day. It feels like a violation of a sacred space. The politicized comments on facebook and the stupid way they are victimizing or blaming entire groups of people for this senseless act further that feeling. Gay clubs have always been a place I sought support of a community and a space to be my authentic self when it wasn’t something I was ready to or wanted to share with the outside world. It makes me angry, it makes me afraid, it makes me sad, but mostly it makes me want to hold my loved ones close.

  • lady brett

    i can’t manage to *feel* anything about this. and i’m horrified with myself. intersectional queer activism is where i had my second raising in my 20s. i used to *be* a drag performer. i can *see* with great clarity how much my people are hurting, and i *know* clearly why i would be outraged. but i can’t muster outrage or hurt. all i’ve been able to muster within myself is “this is where we are now.”

    • Be gentle with yourself. If you have extra tenacity, be generous in extending it to those affected. Otherwise, self care is king (and queen) right now.

      • lady brett

        thank you for this. because it apparently took reading it four times to realize that i had not checked to see how my spouse is doing. not well. apparently after 8 years, i have forgotten that we are not the same person, or i would have know that.

    • toomanybooks

      This is exactly how I am. In the past I’ve been so invested in gay current events & issues that I was just upset so much and realized I had to cut myself off so I wouldn’t just be angry and sad all the time. Now I feel like I just have no tears left because I know that the world is terrible. At first I didn’t want to tell anyone I just wasn’t reacting. But now that I’ve thought about why – of course I feel this way. I’m not shocked. I’m just tired. And if I try to think about this attack too much I’ll just feel hollow and powerless.

    • ladyjanegreysanatomy

      this has been my experience too. i came home from attending a wedding with my best friend, having found out when my ride’s partner checked her phone in the car. when i got home i found my partner all choked up. “You weren’t here so i posted on facebook,” she says (she rarely posts). it was a beautiful love letter to queers and it was perfect. then that evening i found out that a close family member had been in an accident and is still in a medically induced coma. so i had other trauma to worry about, too.

      through all this, i feel the weight, and have trouble concentrating on work, spending more time than i care to count endlessly scrolling but rarely clicking, thinking through all of the angles swirling in that strange echo chamber – guns, homophobia, Islamophobia, self-hate, masculinity, domestic abuse, queers of colour, american politics…. i say little. i don’t cry.

      last night my partner and i talked about it. it was a wide-ranging talk, thinking through our feels together. if nothing else it cements once more just how much i adore her and how we are together. we talked about how frequently the ethnicity of the victims is erased by well-meaning white and relatively privileged queers, suddenly afraid to go to pride. about the promise of more police, as if they are not the perpetrators of heinous crimes against queers and people of colour and trans women and women in general every day. about the shooter, who frequented the club and what that means, and what it means to recognize even that life as grievable. 50 people are dead. about the article that pointed out that queers only became stand-ins for humanity when there is an even more in-human kind of person to hate (i.e. muslim). about how i don’t feel grief or fear (although i do mourn) because i am a white cis woman in a large city in Canada with a strong queer community and a supportive family.

      i have been mourning dead queers and trans women whom i never met for a long time now; while this is shocking in its impact, it is not new. it feels wrong to claim that i am affected in the same way as queer people of colour and trans people and people who live in the U.S. where the rhetoric is just so much more frightening. the truth is that while certainly imperfect, i feel safe here. the fear is not my fear and the grief is not mine to appropriate. but still, i mourn, and clearly i do have feelings because i just registered here so i could share them with strangers on the internet.

  • Mindy

    On my Facebook, so many people have been posting Twitter quotes and/or memes that essentially boil down to, “If Americans didn’t care about Sandy Hook, we aren’t going to care about this.” And while I understand the heartache, the weariness, and the constant bubbling of hopelessness, seeing those words, multiple times, were the first time that I felt *anger*. Even beyond what the moronic GOP candidate had to say or all the people with the usual chorus of, “Please don’t politicize!”(which often really means: “Please don’t make me question my values that don’t support the eradication of hatred or gun violence!”) None of that got to me; I was honestly numb.

    But seeing progressive friends posting frowny faces and words that spoke of resignation? NO. I refuse to believe that we will just accept this. I refuse to believe that we’re defeatists. Yes, absolutely, there must be room for pure mourning–many of us are so much more vulnerable and scared today than yesterday. But I also hope we can take both our sorrow and our growing numbness as a signal that we need to fight harder than ever. The victims and their loved ones deserve that, the city of Orlando deserves that, the entire LGBTQ community deserves that, our nation deserve that, we all deserve that.

    • stephanie

      So, I am one of those people who posted something along these lines… and I think it’s important to make space for this, too. For me, Sandy Hook was really The Moment. As a parent, it was one of the worst things I had ever heard of happening to a group of kids in a class room in the United States, and it was so easy for me to put my own child in that situation and to imagine how confused, bewildered, and then terrified he would have been, how he would have wanted me to be there, and how I probably would have been… eating my bagel, drinking some coffee, having no idea he was being murdered. Much like the parents of the people slain in Orlando were probably sleeping, having no idea. It just shook me to my core, and I thought THIS HAS TO MAKE AMERICA CHANGE. Surely, surely Sandy Hook would transcend the politics of gun control, because parenthood transcends politics, right? But it didn’t, and it still hasn’t, and it is devastating.

      I am not a defeatist, but… definitely has broken me a little bit. It’s probably worth noting that my family and I were in the mall during the Portland, Oregon, shooting that happened 3 days prior to Sandy Hook (and I actually walked right through the cafeteria about 5 minutes before he started shooting there). It felt like everything really rested on that year for me, that span of 3 days, and everything is still the same.

    • stephanie

      Also, one thing to add: I think.. as these become ever more prevalent, that we’ll hit a point where just about everyone can strongly identify with one of these mass shootings. Either because they were there (like me and Portland), or it was their home town (like Meg and San Bernardino), or because it involved a whole bunch of kids and they’re a parent, or because they’re queen and it was at a LGBTQ club, or because they’re black and attend church in South Carolina, and so on. So I think also, one reason my mind IMMEDIATELY flies to Sandy Hook over all the rest is that’s the one that I strongly identify with. My kid is seven right now, and I just… I hate that I have to remember what he’s wearing before I drop him off, so I could find him easily, just in case. I hate that safe spaces are no longer safe.

  • Rose

    I don’t know what to say. I was never really involved in the club/bar scene, but I know how important my own safe, non-heteronormative spaces have been to me.

    I almost wish my sister, who’s also queer, wasn’t planning on going to Pride next weekend, which makes me sick. Of course she should go to Pride. Especially now.

  • ART

    Thank you…I feel really outside of this one, like there are specific communities that are really grieving and scared and angry right now and I’m just this cishet white atheist (but roughly wasp background) lady from the west coast and what do I even know? But it has been weighing really heavily on me. I just really sending a lot of love out to everyone…Orlando, LGBTQ folks and the people who love them, law enforcement that had to respond to such a horrific situation, Muslims like the ones I know personally who find violence and hatred as disgusting as anyone, and any intersection thereof.

    • Yea, I kind understand this feeling. I feel simultaneously inside and outside of the community. My extended family lives in Orlando (and while none of them have come out or identify as gay, I was still glued to my phone until all the cousins checked in), and the city was like a summer home to me in my teenage years. So I’m quite frayed at the edges but I don’t presume to know half the feelings so many are grappling right now.

      I figure, the best I can do is be a helper and an ally, as much as possible. We’re signing up to give blood since so many in the gay community are banned from doing so (and there is already a shortage in the south so if you can, I’d recommend giving). I’m checking in with my LGBT folks and giving them love and affection, even if it’s from far away. And I’m writing my 7632763276th angry letter to our fuckwit Georgia representatives who keep blocking all our efforts.

      In all of this, it’s so easy to shut down from all the horror and the outrage—like what a lot in this thread have been saying about the sheer number of people feeling absolutely defeated, feeling like there’s nothing to be done. But we have to keep fighting, or supporting those leading the fight, etc. It’s difficult and it’s heartbreaking and it’s infuriating, so I say: do what ever you can to be a helper, while doing what you can to take care of yourself.

  • Sarah

    from a Michigan representative, courtesy of a North Carolinian’s Twitter:

    “I literally never want to hear again that LGBT people in the bathroom are a threat to public safety.”

  • eating words

    I am so glad to see this open thread here. Thank you, Najva, for writing.

    I’ve been struggling so hard to keep it together. I keep reading, and crying. This is my community — the queers, the drag performers, everyone who goes to a club like Pulse to be themselves for an evening. To be safe. And now it’s not safe.

    And as though it’s not too much to bear already, the loss of so many young beautiful lives, people are politicizing this… I can’t. I won’t repeat the vile messages that so-called humans have put forward, because I want love to win out. But how will it? Love is love… but hate is hate. Guns are guns. Death is death. We can donate, we can march, we can vote, and… when will we see change?

    • My thought is that fighting bigotry here might have worked. If his parents hadn’t been entrenched in judgement, if southern society had been kinder to a man confused about his sexuality… making people less oppressed can (hopefully) lead to less internalized prejudice, less misdirected anger. I know I’m an optimist, but the other option I see is to lay down and give up sooo.

      THAT BEING SAID: policy change and law shifts DO happen and if you want to use resources to do that work, I believe there’s resources upthread.

  • Laurel

    As a nonreligious person who has spent years educating people that moderate Islam is the most common Islam and that radical Islam is the minority, I am nevertheless troubled by the insistence that this guy was influenced by anti-LBQT Christians and not by radical Islam.

    Both Christian and Islamic texts have troubling teachings that moderate followers reject. Fundamentalists of both religions are a different story. He had turned to radical Islam, so saying his actions are because he “absorbed” Christian anti-LBQT views are a stretch. He wasn’t looking at Christianity; he was looking at Islam; the radical version.

    As long as we are clear that the vast majority of Muslims in the U.S are moderate, there is nothing wrong with the acknowledgement of what ideology was behind the killer’s motives.

    • toomanybooks

      What I’ve heard about the shooter (from sources that knew him, I think family) is that he was homophobic but hardly practiced religion – so I don’t think that points to him being a radical Muslim.

      • Laurel

        He attended a local mosque, so he was certainly religious. Though the local mosque isn’t know to be radical. He was investigated by the FBI several times for links to radical terrorists. He traveled to Saudi Arabia a couple of times.

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/13/orlando-imam-says-he-had-not-feared-omar-mateen-could-be-radical/

        • toomanybooks

          I’ve attended Greek Orthodox Church and visited Greece. I identify as Greek Orthodox. However, I wouldn’t call myself practicing or religious particularly.

          I just don’t want attention to be drawn away from the fact that it was an attack on gay people. People (politicians) are using the fact that he was Muslim to push their agenda about Muslims, and not even mentioning that this was a hate crime against gay people because sympathizing with gay people isn’t part of their platform – in fact, they probably feel quite similar to the shooter about gay people.

          • Laurel

            Yeah, but the killer went on a regular basis. Safe to say he was religious. He also called 911 during his rampage and pledged his allegiance to ISIS.

            I think we have to be balanced in all things.

            We have to admit that radical Islam is a real issue and vet immigrants better. And I’ll be the first to say that U.S. interference in the Middle East is a big part of the rise of radical Islam!

            At the same time as we are honest about the aims of radical Islam, we have to protect the vast majority of moderate Muslims who live here and just want to live their lives.

            When we veer into extreme views or denial, we get into trouble.

          • He was religious at the end. He was looking for an outlet or community to sympathize/align with the anger already inside him, living in a country, in a community, and in a house where gay was not a viable option (USA, Muslim, did you hear his dad?). As new information is now showing (and could almost have been guessed) he was closeted. He’d been to Pulse before.

            Yes, Extremists of any religion are dangerous (and if you think guns of radical muslims are more dangerous than far right christian lobbyists, you’re dead wrong. Laws also kill people, just more spread out.)

            Also, immigrantion discussions have literally NO space here as the killer was a born and bred US citizen who got his guns legally. A reminder everyone in America but the indigenous people are immigrants. The end.

          • Jess

            Yes, yes, yes. I think that we will get bogged down in “why was he a bad guy” and for get about those that were slaughtered and the community that was targeted.

    • Cellistec

      More than tying terrorism or intolerance to any religion, to me this massacre shows how some people are looking for justification for carrying out the hatred they feel. The killer may have felt sanctioned by radical Islam this time, but shooters in the past have felt sanctioned by conservative Christianity (just one example). I see a link between the campaigns of ISIS and Donald Trump: both give bigots and would-be attackers implicit (or explicit) permission to attack specific groups of people. I’m so afraid for copycat attacks that could be inspired by the Pulse shooter to act on their own hateful views.

      • Laurel

        Certainly a hater can/will use their religion to justify their hate, but by the same token we can’t dismiss that religion can also be the inspiration for hate on it’s own. I personally think religion is the major driving factor in the anti-LBQT movement, no matter what the religion is.

        Though I am not a Christian, I know a number of Christians who have no personal animosity towards gays, but will still say being gay is wrong simply because their religion says so.

        My own mother is loving, but if asked, she will say being gay is wrong because her religion teaches it. If her religion taught otherwise, she wouldn’t have that opinion and she’d probably be relieved at hell. It’s not a subject she is passionate about. She is just trying to be an obedient Christian. This does not drive her or most Christians to kill gays. At most, she is concerned about churches being forced to change church policies. She is concerned that Christians who believe they are instructed via the bible that being gay is wrong will be convicted of hate speech just for saying it’s wrong – not because they advocate violence.

        On a worldwide basis, radical Islam is currently the religion killing more gays.

        I honestly don’t think most people in their heart of hearts give a damn about whether their neighbor is gay. It’s religion that makes them feel they need to care!

        • Laurel

          correction – “relieved AS hell”

        • Cellistec

          Hatred without religion is totally possible, and religion without hatred is the rule rather than the exception. The problem is when people use religious texts or interpretations to justify violence against others. People who feel fear and disgust towards gay people likely do care that their neighbors are gay, and biblical passages (or other religious dogma) about homosexuality may frame that discomfort as righteous and moral instead of the bigotry it really is. The problem isn’t Islam; it’s the twisting of religion into a justification for hate.

          • Laurel

            Yes, I was clear that hatred without religion is possible.

            However, you have to admit that most people who are anti-LBQT are religious. I seldom meet nonreligious people who feel that way.

            Most people are born into their religion and absorb it’s messages. I have never met someone who hated gay people and looked for a religion to feel better about it. However, I have met legions of people who were born into a religion and were taught over a lifetime that being gay is wrong and that it’s a “choice”.

            I grew up indoctrinated into religion, but it didn’t “take” with me. I am the minority. I’d say 95% of the kids I went to church with stayed in the religion. None of them were hateful people. None of them would do violence to gays. But would they vote against gay marriage? You betcha. They genuinely don’t feel they have a choice.

            I even know one Christian who said he didn’t have a problem with civil unions; he just didn’t want them to call it “marriage”. It was his religious beliefs that made him balk at the word “marriage” because his religion teaches him that marriage was ordained by God for men and women. He was fine with civil rights and access to benefits for gay partners, but choked on the word “marriage”.

            Because of my upbringing I’ve seen the power of belief, and I will always think that fundamentalist religion is Enemy Number 1 for gays.

          • Cellistec

            I admit, I don’t have that religious experience of seeing people indoctrinated into bigotry. I’m a white, straight, cisgender atheist; I certainly can’t speak for any religious community, or for the GLBTQ community. So I guess my insistence that religion isn’t the source of all bigotry is mostly aspirational: I would really like to believe that religion is, overall, a source of comfort and inspiration instead of fear and hatred. So I look for examples where someone sought religion as a justification for their pre-existing bigotry. All those times mass shooters were called “mentally ill” instead of “self-radicalized,” for example. That definitely colors my interpretation. I like to think it gives religion the benefit of the doubt, but maybe it’s just naive of me. I’m trying to maintain a shred of hope, you know?

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      I just re-read Najva’s post and I think she actually acknowledges this balance, exactly. Her point was simply that, while we will be quick to point to his allegiance to ISIS, we are equally quick to ignore that he was an American citizen, raised under our ideals. I think her point is that there are equal amounts of hatred in conservative religious camps, and that he was likely influenced by American homophobia first and foremost.

    • Based on further news today, it seems he was actually closeted. To be closeted in America, regardless of ethnicity, religion, etc is massively damaging. Some turn pain inwards (the massive, massive rates of queer suicide), and some- like the shooter- turn it outwards.

      I’m here to remind you that there were MANY elements that make being queer unhospitable: the media, the police, religion, society, family, interalized homophobia. But I will say that the loudest source of LGBT hate for anyone living in America is the far conservative right, who uses bibles to excuse their bigotry.

      He only truly turned to Islam later in life (according to most sources). I don’t doubt that colored his actions. But self hate is slow to build, and takes a lifetime.

  • NatalieN

    I am utterly devastated by what happened in Florida. My mom’s whole family is from Florida. My cousin is in Orlando and might have gone to that club that night.

    There is nothing about a single person that means that their life is worth less than another’s. I hate even the implication that they should be mourned less because it was the LGBTQ+ community that was targeted.
    I haven’t known much what to do or say following this, beyond calling/texting friends in LGBTQ+ community and telling them that they are loved, and known and cared for.

    This piece is lovely and heartfelt. Thanks for writing it. I do disagree with one piece: that it was right winged (and therefore Christian) anti-LGBT proposed laws that contributed or motivated the attack. Not when ISIS claimed him as their fighter and he called 911 and pledged allegiance to the organization. ISIS is not all Islam. Not all Islamist subscribe to what ISIS believes and teaches, just as not all Christians picket abortion clinics – or worse attack them. Christians should know that not all Muslims are terrorists, as they are fighting the stigma that all Christians are hypocrites, haters, and that they attack abortion clinics. Moreover, Christians should be individuals who fight against any stigma against Muslims being terrorists – as we’re called to have more grace, more love, to turn the other cheek and love even those that hate us.

    When someone proclaiming to be Christian does a horrendous act in the name of their religion, Christians are quick point out how it is not Biblical, and maintain that that is not a representation of Christ. Similarly I think it’s right to say that the shooter does not represent Islam and fight against the fear and stigma, but to implicate Christians in this I think is unfair.

    • Fiona

      I think the reference to conservative Christianity is not about the shooter, but more about the response that silences gay people and doesn’t recognize that’s who was targeted in the attack. It’s an indictment against the response, and a possible analysis of the shooter’s environment. It reminds us to focus on the larger picture and who was victimized.

      • NatalieN

        “And while this hate crime was perpetrated by a recent Muslim, he was also a US born-and-bred citizen, picking up all the hate that fundamentalist Christians have been putting down.” – with a link to the number of laws proposed in the last 6 months by the right conservatives.

        That was what I was referring to.

        As far as the response, I’ve seen a huge outpouring of support on my social media, and most from Christians (I’m also friends with a lot of non-Christian). I have seen some people complain that Christians who changed their FB profile picture to France’s flag after the Paris attack have not changed their provide to the LGBTQ+ flag – but that flag was widely used over social media when gay marriage was legalized. So I understand Christians not using that flag now as a sign of solidarity, given that it has a different implication as well. And changing their facebook status to the American flag doesn’t seem appropriate, because this was an act of domestic terrorism.

        • Jess

          I think Nadja’s point in making that statement is more that the religious homophobia espoused by some Christians in this country gives rise to a larger culture of homophobia (and biphobia and transphobia) that makes actions like this possible. He was born and raised not just as a child of immigrants and a Muslim but, more importantly, as an American. And growing up as an American right now means being inculcated with homophobia from all sides. The loudest mouthpieces spouting homophobia are Christians and it seems plausible that hearing the hateful shouts from the campaign trail and the senate floor coming out of the mouths of Christians emboldened him and made him feel entitled to his homophobia.

          • NatalieN

            I understand the point, I just disagree with it. I don’t give my friends an out if they attack all Muslims, or justify hate crimes of Christians against Muslims by saying “well, Muslims have also attacked and hated Christians, so the hatred could have come from Muslims but been absorbed by Christians”.

            I don’t think that if a Middle Eastern who espoused Christian beliefs committed a hate crime like this, that we would be saying that he was motivated by Islamic beliefs and values. We’d be saying ‘wow, this guy said he’s a Christian but what he did is awful and an radical sect of Christianity’.

          • Maddie Eisenhart

            I think what Najva is referring to here, is the greater conversation being had in America right now. Much of the anti-LGBTQ agenda is being promoted under conservative Christian ideals. And while I don’t want to put words in her mouth, I think it’s partly because, while our country will be quick to point out that he is Muslim, we forget to acknowledge that he was American, raised in America, under our ideals. So before we point fingers at the Muslim community, I believe we should be examining our own participation, as a country, as to why this happened. Furthermore, I do not think this is necessarily the time to say “Not all Christians.” Obviously not all Christians. But also, some Christians. And some is enough to cause a lot of damage.

          • Based on what we know so far, and that is scant, the killer attended a mosque and swore allegiance to ISIS. Should I paint all Muslims with the same brush? Absolutely not. So, why Christians? Try re-wording your statements with Muslim instead of Christians, and think about how your overall message might make it more difficult to have a meaningful dialogue about how to cut off the sources of hate in our country.

            I also think it’s worth noting that LAPD have walked back their information about the potential shooter there significantly and think he had no intention to harm LA Pride: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-gay-pride-la-weapons-20160612-snap-story.html

            Is this hard? Is this awful? Am I so tired of gun violence in this country? Absolutely. But we’re not going to get there by pretending one side is right and another side is wrong or that the solution is simple. We’ve got to talk to each other and not past each other.

    • Let me address this fully. I’m glad you enjoyed the piece, but your reaction throws me for many reasons:

      1. You are aware you sound like you’re saying #notallchristians. Remember #notallmen and #alllivesmatter? It’s like that.

      2. Christianity is the foundation religion of America. Most lawmakers who are creating and have created homophobic law use the bible as an excuse. These are the same people trying to take away women’s right, deport muslims, etc.

      3. Every LGBTQ american is affected by growing up with these laws and rules. They are dangerous, they are violent. Trans women are being killed often. People cannot go to the bathroom in peace. Gay panic is a course defense. You can lose your job because of your sexuality. You can lose your life because someone was taught the vitriol and thinks you’re less than. It wasn’t long ago the raids on nightclubs were sanctioned and done BY the conservative government. Do not forget this.

      4. Some turn the pain inwards. It starts from a young age. Queers have incredibly high teen suicide rates. (also homelessness rates.)

      5. Some turn the pain outwards, especially those closeted. We have learned the shooter was closeted. This is no surprise. He has internalized the homophobia he had been taught since birth.

      6. Homophobia can be taught in many ways: in your house, in your religious community, and also in society at large. All of these resources failed the shooter. By the time he was old, he was already full of hate.

      7. The fact that he found a group that sympathises with his hate, a context to give meaning to his actions does not mean that it inspired the hate.

      8. That group was, in fact, an extremist faction of Islam. Which, btw tells you to do your own thing, and like, claim them if you want to. Its’ basically open source hate. “Make your own hate, just give us credit”.

      ——-

      I broke this down so you could see not that religion was irrelevant (I’ll never argue that) but that equally relevant (and arguably more so) is the general attitude of the country insofar as being inhospitable and violent towards gay lives. A huge part of this is caused by far right/christian “family values” policy makers, the same ones who are calling this “a great tragedy” and saying “we told you about islam” but not admitting it’s a hate crime totally aligned with the hate they propagate, and denying they had any part in creating the environment in which such a tragedy could occur.

      YES, many many (even conservative) muslims are calling together and using this as an opportunity to show solidarity which queer folks. But the conservative, republican Christian policy makers tweeting about how horrible the islamic extremists are are unwilling to use it as an opportunity to say “sorry we hated on you gay people. We should have seen this was the logical end to what we were teaching. Let’s teach tolerance so we avoid future violence.”

      The hate-crime aspect is facing erasure in conservative conversations, and THAT is why I’m shouting it so hard. Because this was a HATE crime against LGBTQ folks.

      • NatalieN

        Honestly, I’m reading a lot of anger in your response, so I’m not sure if this is a safe forum for me to respond, so I won’t be commenting on this thread anymore.

        But briefly, your comment about the shooter being influenced by Christian values and public policy assumes that he appropriated American culture, which I currently don’t have evidence to support that he did. He is the child of immigrants from Afghanistan; his father has posted in support of the Taliban, but we don’t know right now where his hate stemmed from. Stating it as a matter of fact that he was influenced by fundamentalist Christian values is damaging at best, at worst totally shuts down any room for disagreement or differing opinion.

        Additionally, we don’t know that he was closeted, that is something that is currently being looked into, and recent evidence has been brought to light that suggests that. You state it above as a matter of fact, not a matter of opinion.

        I have no issue with presenting evidence, or putting forth opinions on what contributed. But saying it like it’s a matter of fact felt attacking.

        If my comment read as saying not all Christians, it’s because I’m aware that Christians have done damage, just as Muslims have done damage, just as atheists who fear an AIDS have done damage. If you’re spreading blame far enough to reach fundamentalist Christians, we should also reach back 20, 30, 40 years to when the vast majority of the public were anti-LGBTQ.

        • Ashlah

          Honestly, I’m reading a lot of anger in your response
          Are you for real right now?

          He didn’t appropriate American culture, he LIVED in it. He was raised in it. Children of immigrants might also be raised with the culture of their parents, but they are not shielded from the influence of this one.

  • Mrrpaderp

    Beautifully written as always, Najva. I wasn’t going to comment on this article but I just saw something on the news that gave me pause – can someone please explain to me wtf “self-radicalized” means? I mean, if some random Christian did this and with his dying breath gave a shout out to the Westboro Baptist Church, would we be calling him “self-radicalized”? Or would we be calling him a crazy asshole with a gun?

    • I think this article breaks it down better than I can, personally: http://fusion.net/story/313760/omar-mateen-orlando-dylann-roof-terror/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=fusion&utm_content=link

      “Why aren’t we engaged in a conversation about “Christian extremism”?

      Because engaging in one would mean that America would no longer be able to focus on Islam or people in the Middle East as the only threats to the fabric of American security. It would have to focus on itself. Taking a critical look at American hate-mongering through anti-gay legislation, lax gun laws that allow people like Mateen to legally own weapons, and symbols like the Confederate flag would force this country to ask whether it is dispensing its own style of propaganda against its own people.”

  • Notreallytrevor

    I’m a long way away from you all and have no real connection to either Orlando or the gay community but still feel so much sadness over whats happening in our world. I’m a big believer in defiance. I know it’s raw right now but by joining together and not splitting apart we are showing people of this mind whatever there motivation is that we will not be broken. The group here on APW even just by talking about issues and giving an open and welcoming space are making a difference. I am behind anyone who goes out into the world with love, love by its nature is open, warm and healing.

  • Kalë

    Thanks for the space and beautiful/heartbreaking piece, Najva. I don’t think I have the emotional fortitude or even the words to describe how this has left me feeling, so I’ll leave that to the more eloquent among us. I don’t want to concede my horror, I don’t want to accept that “this is
    the way things are”, to quell my rage and abhorrence with resignation and the bitter black relief that (at least this time) it wasn’t me. But right now, it seems like a lot of people are
    sharing my feelings of helplessness and hopelessness; the sickening inevitability our current political and cultural climate seems to breed here in the US. Unless there is a radical change, I can’t help but feel that this will continue as regularly as the alarm in the morning – unwelcome but unavoidable. It seems like it’s always only a matter of time, sometimes merely days, until the next mass shooting. And what community will it be the next time around?

    Practically, I want to ask the community – what can we do? How do we fight this? What can be done to rise up as citizens and make progress towards a place where this never happens again?

    • MC

      It always gets said, but one thing people who are in favor of gun control need to do is vote in every election. I saw this post with the names of the people who voted against mandatory background checks, and one of the reasons these folks are still in office is because Dems/independents don’t turn out to vote in midterm elections. If everyone who supported gun control voted against these folks in every election, along with the candidates in smaller elections who support them, we could get laws that would greatly reduce the incidence of gun violence. Here’s the list:

      https://www.facebook.com/140272772709378/photos/a.143122555757733.28681.140272772709378/1062010103868969/

      Obviously, violence is a complex problem and what we also need to do is educate people better about biases and bigotry and stand up for people in marginalized communities. There are many ways do to that, from calling out people who make offensive jokes, to volunteering with a social justice nonprofit who’s working on educating kids in schools or youth programs. But in the meantime, we will still have bigots and violent people who should not have access to guns.

      Long story short, it takes current risk reduction as well as big cultural change, and we need people at all fronts.

      • Cellistec

        Well said.

      • MC

        Oh, and that list comes from Women Against Gun Violence – here’s their FB: https://www.facebook.com/Women-Against-Gun-Violence-140272772709378/

      • Totch

        Another good resource is whoismyvoice.com, which allows you to use your zipcode to find elected officials who have accepted contributions from the NRA. They have another version for looking up representatives who voted to defund planned Parenthood as well.

      • Lisa

        I wrote to both of my senators and my congressman yesterday, knowing that it will probably do little good, and now I’m seeing both senators on this list. I’m doing what I know how to do (voting in every election, writing my representatives, opening dialogue with others in my area, etc.), but living in the state I do, I feel like I’ll never make any headway on this topic.

    • Notreallytrevor

      One relatively minor thing but some thing which I think is important is we need to stop calling the group Islamic state. This name gives the impression that they have the legitimacy to act on behalf of Islam and also indicates that they are moving towards their stated aim of an Islamic caliphate. Instead we should be calling them deash as explained in this article
      http://indy100.independent.co.uk/article/why-isis-will-hate-it-if-we-start-calling-them-daesh–bkC822p_zl

      Or personally I love CystISIS
      http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2DQDwVjP1HM

      Disclaimer: I am not saying this guy was 100% linked with an international terrorist group.

      • stephanie

        Oh, I agree.

    • sdkicks07

      I put this together last night while researching all the new gun control initiatives that at coming down the pipeline this fall. This does not help with the underlying issues of hate, but it does try to make guns harder to get for unstable people full of that hate. (For example some sort of universal background check ideally would have figured out the shooter had domestic violence on his record and was on some watch lists and then he would not legally have been able to buy guns.) Check it out and consider supporting some of these measures via your wallet or with time by donating or volunteering.
      https://medium.com/@allison.hutchings/gun-control-how-to-help-right-now-june-13-2016-a85e61e140d8#.b039lxg8p

  • EF

    guys. i got back from the london old compton street/soho vigil not too long ago. and this was a horrible, horrible thing that happened — BUT i am so proud of the community coming together. i am so proud watching my muslim mayor refuse to hide in the shadows or behind security and instead be in the middle of old compton street, promising pride will still happen, promising he will do everything he can to protect minority communities. there was a moment’s silence and 50 balloons were released. the london gay mens chorus sang. we all cried. please let it be the last time we need to hold a vigil like this.

  • Jess

    Thank you for this post. I am a cisgender, straight white female and an ally. I feel at a loss for what to do. During the attack, I was at a gay bar with some of my dearest friends in the world, celebrating the fact that two of them can now get legally married. I was crying tears of joy with how proud of the progress and love has grown recently.

    I got a text from my husband the next morning that said, “I am so glad you guys are safe. I love you all so much and I don’t even understand what is wrong with the world.”

    I have been teary off and on since Sunday, for many reasons. Deep sadness and just not comprehending. Fear. Anger. Gratitude for strangers online who are Amazon priming thing to the One Blood blood drive. Joy at the outpouring of support I’ve seen from my tribe. Frustration because I don’t know how to help.

    I also feel terribly for my muslim friends. This is not their beliefs. They are amazing people who have to hear hate spewed and misconstruing their faith. They are being vilified. I am so worried that islamiphobia and talk about ISIS are going to cause problems for both communities and muddy the waters on productive conversation and growth.

    I would love to hear any ways we can help. My current list of options I’ve thought of: Donate to victim fund, donate blood, contact legislators about ease of getting assault and high capacity weapons, love your friends, stand up and be a voice against hate in my regular life. Any others?

    • YES TO ALL OF THOSE. Laws need to change, NOW.

      And that last one: seek out the bigots. Do not avoid conflict. Speak to that those of us with hoarse throats may rest. Speak because people might listen to you in a way they might not listen to me.

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  • Elizabeth

    People ask me how I am, how my weekend was, like it was just another weekend, like they expect me to respond and I don’t see how I can say that I’m good or doing well. And is it dishonest not to? I mean, for me it was fine. There was some crying, Sunday, yesterday, today, but not much and it’s not as though I’m truly personally affected. I’ve kept on with my life, it wasn’t miserable, I’m not miserable. (I’ve actually taken to responding with ‘I hate the world’ but that’s not even really true either, because I care for so many people in it.)

    But I keep coming back around to feeling heartbroken.

    To feeling helpless and scared and heartbroken. To the fact that this was targeting people in a place they should have could have did feel safe in a world that sometimes doesn’t have enough of those. I volunteer with an LGBTQ suicide support line, and I picked up an extra shift last night and that, too, was heartbreaking, to talk to people who have tried to hold on to the thought they’ll get out of their current environment, that they’ll find somewhere safe, and now they don’t know if that exists. I picked up an extra shift because it helps me to feel like I can do something, because there are people processing what’s happened that need someone to talk to, because almost all of us volunteers are ourselves queer and some people need to process by stepping back and taking that time for themself, and if I can fill in for them, I want to.

  • Christina McPants

    Honestly, one of the things that bugs me about this the most… I put up something on facebook about how sad I was and how I didn’t think anything would change because of it, which I’ve done with previous tragedies. This is the one that I had facebook friends comment that gun control wouldn’t solve anything. This one. Not Sandy Hook, not Aurora, not South Carolina. This one.

    I want this tragedy to lead to something better for the LGTBQ+ community. To get ENDA passed, to draw attention to the senseless murders of trans women of color, to erase the narrative of the trans woman as a sexual predator. I don’t know that anything will.