A year ago, June 12, 2016, 49 people were murdered in a gay nightclub – 49 people! It was the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter. It was also the deadliest single incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history. Here in Houston, hundreds of people gathered at City Hall to grieve.
Hate crimes are on the rise in the U.S. LGBT hate crimes are under reported for obvious reasons. Elsewhere in the world it is worse. In Chechnya, gay men are being rounded up and tortured. In Russia, those reporting this are being imprisoned. In Mosul, ISIS throws gay men from rooftops and then stones then to death. Very biblical.
We may think religious disapproval of homosexuality isn’t so bad, but gay people exist, and labeling them as sinful, an abomination, or unclean, stigmatizes them, fueling self-hatred and bigotry. Isn’t it time that we acknowledge how the anti-gay rhetoric, couched in pious religiosity, has heaped shame on LGBTQ people and stoked the flames of hatred among the self-righteous? Society’s shame on LGBTQ people creates The Velvet Rage, a kind of internal homophobia. If you hate gay people and realize you are one, well, where does that leave you?
It is time to wake up and realize that we are a people who live by faith, hope, and love, not a people who live by an ancient biblical legal code that calls for the death penalty for homosexuals, supports slavery, and demands females submit to males. Faith is not that, regardless of what the fundamentalists (of every religion) will tell you.
On this anniversary, we remember the 49 who were killed, the 58 who were wounded, and their family, friends, and both the local and larger community. May they all be comforted in this time of grief with hope, promise, and love.