Time to… live with pride…

Time to celebrate their lives…

                                 Time to live with pride…

Dear World,

On Sunday, June 12, a massacre occurred in Orlando, Florida. At Pulse, a night club. It was a massacre against our community. Forty nine people were killed, fifty three others were wounded. It was the worst single person mass shooting in modern American history.

Omar Mateen was an American citizen, born in New York, of Afghan descent. He was twenty nine years old, and worked as a security guard. He was a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a friend, and apparently, a very angry, hate-filled man. Though he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State during a 911 call he made at one point in the shooting, he had no official ties to them. The motives remain mysterious.

Was it hatred in the name of Islam? Many seem to think so, and have called it a terrorist attack. Although even his father said this was not done in the name of religion. Was it terrorism? Personally, I don’t like that label. Perhaps you do. I just find that term detracts from the fact that it was an attack specifically against our community. It wasn’t against Americans in general, it was against gays because of who we love and how we identify. It was hatred and prejudice that was focused solely on LGBTs. It was terrorism or sorts, but to me, it was much more of a hate crime against the gay community.

A lot of evidence seems to pointing towards what is called internalized homophobia. Mateen actually frequented Pulse. He had profiles on gay dating websites, and communicated – and may have even had intimate relationships with some of the other Pulse regulars. Mateen’s first wife, Sitora Yusufiy, has classified him as a man full of anger and rage. She said he was very abusive and unpredictable towards her. Once word got out of these profiles and relationships, both of Mateen’s marriages were examined much more closely. During an television interview, when asked if she thought he was homosexual, Yusufiy responded by saying she wasn’t sure. Though it’s speculative, it certainly seems as though he was actually gay himself. His homophobia may very well have been self directed; that he was unable to handle his homosexuality or his self-hatred. The unfortunate tragedy is that forty nine other people died because he could not accept himself.

Many of the people who died were Hispanic, which almost feels like a stronger blow to our Hispanic LGBT community. Ours, which is so small and tightly knit. I feel as though I am looking at pictures of my cousins when I look at their pictures. Realistically, I am. We are all family, after all.

So many of them were young, all of them had so much to live for. Each and every one was a devastating loss for our community, and the world. This attack could have happened anywhere, to any of us – to all of us. This is such a travesty, one of the greatest cataclysms of our generation. Words fail the gravity of it, the severity of it, the despondency of it. This truly is our loss, our tragedy. It is a time to mourn and grieve. However, it is also a time to celebrate their lives. Moreover, it is a time to live with pride. If we live in shame and cowardice, people like Omar Mateen win. It is our obligation to every person murdered and injured at Pulse to be true to ourselves, to live our lives, to love proudly, and to never be ashamed of the people God made us to be.

Live life in your own special way,

Lauren

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