Sunday, July 03, 2016

Was Orlando Straight America’s Stonewall?

Like so many in the LGBT community, I continue to feel the lasting effects of the Orlando massacre that brought out in the open the hatred the LGBT community faces daily.  As my husband has said, that could have been us had we been in Orlando visiting and looking for a fun dance club to visit. And it could have been any gay/gay friendly bar across the country.   While a wake up call to those of us who are LGBT, as noted in a piece in Huffington Post, one can ope that what happened at Pulse on June 12, 2016, will over time prove to be the seminal act of terror/horror that gave straight America the wake up call that it needed to recognize its own complicity in the slaughter.  In my view, there needs to be a much larger discussion of religion's role in fomenting homophobia and the responsibility borne by "good Christians" who fail to forcefully confront - and hopefully over time, silence - the purveyors of anti-LGBT hatred who continue to stand in pulpits across America.  The truth is that Christianity is the wellspring from which homophobia was globalized.  The following are highlights from the HuffPo piece on how Orlando will make a lasting difference:
President Obama made history last Friday by conferring national monument status upon the site of the Stonewall Rebellion. As of yesterday’s dedication, Stonewall became the first national monument commemorating an event in LGBT history. That the president took this step with the nation still reeling from the antigay massacre in Orlando highlights how the two events — Stonewall and Orlando — are intertwined as major inflection points in the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality.
The mass shooting at Orlando’s gay nightclub Pulse jolted straight Americans in much the same way that 1969’s Stonewall Rebellion accelerated the LGBT rights movement. Like Stonewall, Orlando catalyzed a collective self-reckoning and resolve for progress. But unlike Stonewall and the other anti-LGBT attacks that followed it in the decades since, Orlando’s aftershocks have rocked all of America - most notably Straight America - and not just LGBTs.
No LGBT American needed yet another reminder of the dangers we face on a daily basis. Orlando was not the first mass murder motivated by antigay hate.  . . . Many LGBT Americans have been the victims of violent crimes motivated by antigay or antitrans animus. In fact, the FBI classifies LGBT Americans as significantly more likely than any other minority - including Latinos/as and African-Americans - to be targeted by hate crimes.
So, while the Orlando mass shooting was horrifying to LGBT people, it did not necessarily surprise us. It was anti-gay violence and hate of the kind to which we have grown accustomed. We have learned to coexist with precarity, and walk the netless high wire that outness often entails.
Orlando’s aftermath, however, has differed materially from that of prior anti-gay mass hate crimes. This time, LGBT Americans were not left to mourn alone. To the contrary, there has been a loud, sustained, and unprecedented outcry by straightpeople condemning what happened in Orlando - and not solely as a mass shooting of unprecedented magnitude, but as an expressly and intolerably antigay mass hate crime.
Some statements rang hollow, like those from politicians and religious leaders known for trafficking in antigay hate in exchange for votes or donations. But a great many came across as sincere and heartfelt.
Some of the boldest displays of solidarity came from corners not usually known to be welcoming, nevermind attuned, to the LGBT community. Sports, for example. 
Teresa Jacobs, the mayor of Orange County, FL, which includes Orlando City, at the Lake Eola vigil that drew 50,000 straight and LGBT mourners lamented that the straight majority’s indifference to homophobia’s ubiquity helped the Orlando Massacre happen. She said: “We failed them when we were insensitive....and we failed them when we knew it was wrong, and we did nothing.” She observed that her “generation and the generations before were indoctrinated with beliefs and messages that fostered and perpetuated hate and prejudice, sometimes intentionally....” She called “on every member of our straight community to open their hearts to acceptance, to embrace diversity, and to cherish our differences.”
Slate’s J. Bryan Lowder reported from Orlando that “[a] number of queer folks [he] spoke with...observed that, in the wake of the tragedy, straight people in their lives seemed to be experiencing a kind of revelation about how precarious and stressful being LGBTQ still is in America.” He quoted one person as saying, “people are getting woke, right?” . . . . Many straight Americans arrived at these distressing realizations in Orlando’s wake, after having been lulled into the false reassurance that last year’s nationwide marriage equality victory represented the full normalization of gay life. 
This heightened interweaving of Straight with LGBT America cultivated the familiarity and empathy demonstrated so vividly, everywhere, over the last two weeks. It rendered the Orlando Massacre a catalytic event in LGBT history - as a straight counterpart to Stonewall. It is a watershed moment that is accelerating progress in the LGBT movement by raising awareness, activating countless new straight allies, and mainstreaming demands for full LGBT equality.
Orlando’s aftermath has recruited legions of new straight allies to the LGBT movement. The LGBT civil rights movement is no longer a movement for and by LGBT Americans. It is an American movement. For and by all of us.
I hope the author's prediction proves right.  Meanwhile, we in the LGBT community need to keep the pressure up on  the many new straight allies and help to focus efforts on destroying the roots of homophobia in America: toxic religion and shameless Republican politicians who use anti-LGBT animus literally daily to promote themselves with the hate-filled Christofascists.  

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