#OrlandoStrong

As of this moment, 49 are dead and over 50 injured following a tragic shooting at an Orlando gay bar yesterday. Obama called it “an act of terror and an act of hate.” An act of terror because of the killer’s religious ideology, and an act of hate because it targeted the LGBTQ community in a space that should have been safe. I’m stuck on the “act of hate” part since I’m among the demographic this killer saw fit to kill. Anti-gay sentiments run rampant among the highly devout of many religions, including my own.

Here in Canada, our laws protecting sexual and gender minorities have come far, but we still have a ways to go. If our work were done, people wouldn’t still ask: “Why do students need gay-straight alliances at high schools? Or washrooms that are safe for all students, whatever their expressed gender? What’s the point of the annual pride parade? And why do gay people insist on marrying? Why can’t they just live together?”

J. and I are openly gay, yet we don’t hold hands walking down the street, we don’t kiss in public, and we don’t proclaim our marriage from the rooftops every time we go out. I can’t speak for J. but I am conscious of our difference and self-conscious in public because, despite the progress of anti-discrimination laws, tolerance and acceptance still abound.

A few years back, a fellow running for a seat in the Alberta legislature stated, with reference to gays and lesbians: “You can live the way you were born, and if you die the way you were born, then you will suffer the rest of eternity in the lake of fire, hell, a place of eternal suffering.” Thanks for that. More recently, and many years after gay marriage became legal in Canada, our Conservative party ditched their definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, thereby not endorsing gay marriage but not precluding it anymore either.

I will attend our local pride parade this year with J. and our friends, gay and straight. I will enjoy seeing “my people” out in droves. But even moreso, I will look forward to seeing the families, both gay couples with children and straight ones too. Those parents are teaching their children tolerance so that they will grow up in a world that is more open to difference.

Any life that is lost senselessly merits outrage and action. This killer happened to choose a gay bar, but he could have gone to a bustling cafe, a tourist resort, an office building, or a crowded subway station. He could have hunted down university students or grocery shoppers. But he didn’t.

It’s trite to say that good will come from this tragedy, but I can only hope. The outpouring of support for the LGBTQ community has been tremendous, not to mention all those who have stepped up to donate blood to the injured. We can’t forget the good in people at a time like this.

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6 thoughts on “#OrlandoStrong

  1. I feel extremely sad that a place that should have been safe was not and that this murderer was able to do so much damage in such a short time because of our ridiculous gun laws in the US. However, if our reaction is to demonize a whole religion because of some crazy people, then we are no better than they are. All religions and groups and individuals must proactively take a stand to protect our LGBTQ community from the hate that leads to this. We can’t stop every crazy person, we never will, but we can create an environment that doesn’t support nor arm them.

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  2. Call me Pollyanna, but I feel that the groundswell of support for LGBTQ people in the last 10 years has been one of the most heartening developments of the 21st century. I think this is a generational issue, with acceptance and tolerance being the rule rather than the exception among young adults. Maybe this is an artifact of where I live or the demographics (SES, education level) of the young people I know.

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    • Impus: I agree with you wholeheartedly, but I still think there’s work to be done, especially on individual attitudes. I know gay Catholic teachers at our school board who cannot acknowledge they are gay let alone that they are living in a same-sex relationship or they would lose their jobs. I’m thinking of how J. and I were treated looking for dishes last weekend in comparison to the way a heterosexual couple was treated. It was quite striking. Maybe that had nothing to do with our being gay, but maybe it did. It’s those kinds of situations that may be more prevalent than any of us want to admit. Of course Orlando was a very extreme example committed by someone who was not well, but there are so many other subtle discriminatory practices that are reminders that there’s still work to be done. By saying this, I don’t mean to devalue how much progress has been made. Thanks for writing. XO

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