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.