When You Legislate Hate, Expect Violence

People gathered in front of the White House for a vigil in honor of the victims on June 12, 2016.
People gathered in front of the White House for a vigil in honor of the victims on June 12, 2016.

This Saturday at 2 AM, I was in a club celebrating pride with my friends as I have most years since coming out. I wouldn’t know until the next morning when I woke up that at the same moment I had been celebrating my identity, 49 people (and possibly more) were losing their lives because they are part of my community.
It happened hundreds of miles away, but I felt like it happened in my own backyard. I couldn’t stop thinking about how it could have happened to me or my friends across the country who would most likely also find themselves in the local queer club sometime or another. I didn’t know the victims, but I feel pain for their families and friends. I feel pain for those who may not have been out and now have no choice about how their stories are told. I feel pain for the loss of a space that brought camaraderie, comfort, and safety to many people, and now is a place of loss and hurt.
Yes, we should bring up gun violence and how easy it is for people to perpetrate it. But absolutely bring up the fact that a man walked into an LGBTQ club on Saturday with the intent to murder LGBTQ people. Bring up the fact that almost every single victim was a person of color, most Latinx – an already marginalized part of our community and our country.
We don’t know enough to speak to the shooter’s exact motivations. There have been articles discussing his interest in ISIS. We know he was on an FBI watch list. It’s also come to light that the murderer may have been a regular at Pulse and in some way queer himself. If true, it only makes what happened even more tragic.
It’s not just that we let people in this country have guns. Some of the highest and most visible leaders in our country support queerphobic and transphobic legislation. They want to be able to fire us from our jobs. They want to prevent us from protecting our families through legal marriage. They want to criminalize something as mundane and ridiculous as using the bathroom, simply because of who we are.
It’s not about ideological difference or protecting someone’s “religious freedom.” It’s ignorance at best and hate at worst. And that hatred does not exist in a vacuum. It spreads and breeds among those who are looking for a sign to perpetrate violence. As long as these laws are allowed to stand and to progress through the halls of government, that hatred is being codified and legitimized.
We need to protect people from guns in this country. But LGBTQ people need more than that. We need laws that protect us from discrimination based on our sexual orientation and gender identity. We need to end transphobic legislation being passed by some states. We need to hold accountable politicians who advocate against the LGBTQ community.
May the victims rest in power, and may we continue the fight for justice so it never happens again.