Shocking news out of Orlando today. I am going to paraphrase a friend of mine’s post to say that I am both devastated by this loss and enraged by the media narrative that is now enfolding around it. This attack has been labeled domestic terrorism, as well it should be, but it is being granted that label at this early stage in the investigation for the wrong reasons—not because 50 people lost their lives, but because the murderer wasn’t white. The Charleston shooter is a terrorist, although he is not generally referred to as one; the Planned Parenthood shooter is a terrorist, and he is definitely not referred to as one. If this shooter had been white, I suspect we’d be talking about this attack in very different terms right now.
So let’s be clear. The Orlando nightclub shooter is just as likely to have learned homophobia from American society as he is to have learned it from any one religious belief. By writing this off as just something that “those people” do, we are failing to address the intolerance that proliferates in our society: an intolerance that means that people in the LGBTQ community cannot give blood in times of crisis (I had heard reports that the ban was being lifted for this incident, but those reports are not true); an intolerance that shapes how people in the LGBTQ community are portrayed on film and television (i.e. as tragic figures who will never know happiness); an intolerance that used to make it impossible for people in the LGBTQ community to marry the person they loved (and continues to make it dangerous to do so in some areas of the country). The narrative surrounding this attack should not be “Muslims are homophobic” (they aren’t necessarily); the narrative surrounding this attack should be “American society continues to have strongly homophobic characteristics that routinely lead to tragedy for members of the LGBTQ community.”
And those characteristics need to be weeded out once and for all.