Monday, June 13, 2016

Orlando: A Reminder of the Dangers LGBT People Live With

I am hardly one to be paranoid and I certainly will not allow the terror attack in Orlando whether ISIS connected or not to make me change my life.  After a tumultuous coming out experience, being fired by a law firm for being gay, and facing a homophobic divorce court judge, I make no apologies to anyone for who I am.  That said, the massacre in Orlando nonetheless is a reminder of the dangers many in the LGBT community live with everyday.  I don't mean just the danger of violent death, but daily prejudice, fear of losing one's job in far too many states, and constantly being denigrated and targeted for animus.  Those behind these fears and dangers in almost every instance are the "godly folk" be they Christian or fundamentalist Muslims.  Ignorance, fear of modernity, and - in my view - a form of mental illness that motivates them to fundamentalism - and hatred of those who are different are what motivates them.  And justifying such hate, we continue to see Republican politicians and candidates bending backwards to pander to such foul people.  Writing this blog, I have received death threats on a number of occasions and the threats have ALL been form those purporting to be godly Christians.  A piece in Huffington Post looks at the dangers that lurk in the shadows for LGBT citizens.  Here are excerpts:
A Pride month night of celebration and fun — the weekly Latin Night at the popular Orlando club, Pulse, focused on Latin music, performances and dancing — turned into a morning of mass death and devastation. But the brutal reality that jarred Orlando’s LGBT community, and the entire nation, is something that LGBT people have always experienced, as gay and lesbian bars and clubs have been targeted consistently by those who harbor hate toward LGBT people.
And it’s a reminder of the animus against LGBT people that still exists, and the ever present danger with which we still live.
There have been scores of attacks on LGBT spaces, some of which received more attention than others. Eric Rudolph, also known as the Olympic Park Bomber because of his terror attack on the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta in 1996, also targeted lesbian bars, in addition to abortion clinics. In 1997, he targeted the Otherside Lounge, a lesbian bar in Atlanta, with two bombs, one of which detonated in the bar and injured five people. (The second bomb, found in a parking lot of the bar, was detonated by police without injury.) Rudolph, associated with the extremist Army of God, later pleaded guilty and said he was targeting homosexuality.
In 2014, Musab Masmari was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for setting fire to a Seattle gay nightclub on New Year’s Eve in 2013. The assistant U.S. attorney reported that one of Masmari’s friends said Masmari confided in him that he “‘burned a gay club’ and that he did it because ‘what these people are doing is wrong.’” Another person close to Masmari reportedly said he had a “general hostility towards homosexuality.” And just last fall, there were a series of unsolved attacks against gay men exiting gay bars and venues in Dallas.
And hours after the Orlando mass-shooting, it was reported that police in Santa Monica found a cache of weapons and chemicals in the car of James Wesley Howell, an Indiana man whom they said was headed to LA Pride intending “to harm” the event.
Hatred against LGBT people is clearly something we’ve lived with for decades, and even in these days of big victories we see a ferocious backlash playing out which is also motivated by bigotry. Many of us often take for granted the freedoms we’ve won, and certainly we don’t think twice about going out for a good time, dancing and enjoying ourselves — and we might not want to think about the dangers that still face LGBT people. And the American media, too, seems complacent; early on major news organizations reporting on this mass shooting, like The New York Times and CNN, weren’t reporting the fact that Pulse is a gay club, or were downplaying that fact — a relevant fact, especially as this increasing looks like a terror attack or hate crime.
Hate crimes against LGBT people haven’t dissipated since the arrival of marriage equality and have in fact been on the rise in recent years. What we’ve learned from his father about the Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, is that he was recently repulsed  — became “very angry” — upon seeing two gay men kissing in Miami. Whatever his other beliefs or allegiances, that bedrock of homophobia is part of what drove him to carry out a brutal mass-shooting.
This terrible tragedy is a reminder of the threat of violence against LGBT every day, and why we must always remain vigilant. 

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