I’ve gotten in the habit of drafting these blogs on Friday nights, while one of my favourite public radio shows is playing, and then revising what I wrote over the weekend before posting it on Monday. A couple of Fridays ago I drafted a long blog about a bombing at a Target restroom in Illinois that had just happened a couple of days earlier. Writing about that was kind of risky, because at the time the local police hadn’t figured out the bomber’s motive, so it was unknown whether or not the bombing was tied to the recent protests over Target announcing a trans-inclusive restroom policy, but I felt that it was still important to write about because a bombing in the restroom of any department store, no matter the reason for it, should be enough to send chills through all of us. A bombing like that could have easily hurt or killed anyone there, not just transgender or genderqueer people.
Two things happened between writing that blog and the following Monday that caused me to scrap it. The second was that the police announced that the bombing was due to the alleged bomber being on drugs, and wasn’t tied to any of Target’s corporate policies. By the time that was announced, though, the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando had pretty much obliterated thoughts about any other news story.
The details that have emerged about the shooting have painted a very complex picture, one that we’re not likely to get much significant clarification on because the shooter is dead. What is clear is that the nightclub was targeted for being a safe space for LGBT+/SAGA people, and as much as right-wingers may be trying to draw attention away from that fact by focusing on the shooter, it’s not worked to any appreciable degree so far, and with any luck it will continue to fail in the weeks and months ahead.
More and more people are pointing out, as these mass killings become increasingly commonplace, that public attention needs to shift away from the killers and more towards the victims and survivors, not just to avoid glorifying the killers but also because that’s where our hearts should be directed at times like these. That doesn’t fit into the modern conservative modus operandi of engendering and exploiting fear at every opportunity, though, and particularly with the presumptive presidential candidate that Republicans have chosen this year (and his history of stirring up outright hatred against minorities), we’re probably going to keep getting pounded with undisguised, unfettered, almost rapturous Islamophobia through to November’s elections and likely beyond.
The hypocrisy involved in right-wingers saying “You should hate those people whose holy book says homosexuality is evil … you should listen to us, because our holy book says homosexuality is evil!” is so typical that it’s almost blasé, but it needs to be called out as loudly as possible because the attempts to pin all the blame for the Orlando shooting on the killer’s religion are a deliberate smokescreen to try to conceal how the hatred they’ve engendered against LGBT+/SAGA people in the name of their “Christian” doctrine has led to so much violence and so many deaths over the years. There’s a reason why so many of us worried about the Target bombing being an act of political terrorism against transgender people and their allies, and the leap of logic to tie the two together, especially when the murder rate for transgender Americans is at an all-time high, isn’t exactly a long jump.
For them to admit that hatred and intolerance writ broadly is what needs to be tackled is beyond the scope of possibility, though, because the people who so actively foment those forces would not only be forced to abandon their most effective (and seemingly favourite) tools, but to admit any kind of responsibility for anything is an apparent anathema to them. These are the same people who want big companies and their CEOs, and their own rich and overentitled selves, to go around without being questioned by anyone (just look at how their presidential candidate handles criticism), all the while drug testing every single person who gets any kind of financial assistance from the government even when doing so costs far more money than it “saves” in recouped benefits, because the mere existence of those drug testing programmes helps perpetuate the stereotypes they keep putting out there about racial and ethnic minorities in America.
These are the same people who ratcheted up Islamophobia fifteen years ago and deceived America into supporting two disastrous and costly wars, and continue to use every force at their disposal to try to push us into perpetual war in the Middle East, either through direct American intervention or by supporting other countries carrying out a barely-concealed genocide against Muslims. These are the same people saying that the “solution” to what happened in Orlando is for everyone to carry a semi-automatic rifle around everywhere they go, as if crossfire is just another “liberal myth” like global climate change and women getting pregnant as a result of rape. These are the same people who seem incapable of even acknowledging that any sane human can be driven by forces that aren’t tied directly to the basest and most vile human instincts of greed and hate, and want to cram this “philosophy” down everyone’s throats until they get the kind of bloody, war-ridden dystopia that would make The Hunger Games look like something out of a Lisa Frank catalogue.
I wish I could say that I doubt this kind of naked triangulation is destined to keep failing, but I’ve been a part of the LGBT+/SAGA community for far too long to be able to say with confidence that it will stand united against the attempts to turn it against Muslims in America and around the world. We are not a homogeneous bunch by any stretch of the imagination, and it is more than possible for someone to love another person of the same gender and still hate others based on their religion. Until recently the “T” part of “LGBT+” often felt like second-class citizens even within the larger community, especially in the 1990s and 2000s when there was tremendous pressure on everyone to “act normal” (i.e. behave like a straight cisgender person) because it was believed that doing so was the only way that any of us could gain acceptance.
Back when I was in my undergraduate years at the University of Toledo, and I was president of the campus LGBT+/SAGA student group, I blanched whenever I heard other members of the group derisively refer to straight people as “breeders,” meant to be as much of an insult and slut as the f-word is to gay males. I knew that these people came from homes where they heard and felt a lot of homophobic rhetoric, often having to remain closeted about their sexuality just to keep themselves from being abused or worse, and while I sympathized with their plight, I still couldn’t accept their open expressions of hatred against straight people because no one, not even straight people, deserve to be hated, or the target of hate speech, because of their sexuality.
If there was one good thing that I gained from that experience, though, it’s a stronger belief that hatred is a learned emotion, not something that is inherent to the human condition, and that hate in response to other hate is counter-productive and usually disastrous. Unlike sexuality or gender identity or skin color, hate is a conscious and deliberate choice, and while hatred will never be eradicated from the planet, those who actively seek to fan the flames of hatred and condemn innocents to death for their own selfish purposes, from religious zealots to neoconservative shitstains, must be defeated in the court of public opinion, and at the ballot boxes, at all costs.
The efforts by conservatives to turn the American LGBT+/SAGA community against Muslims seem to be failing so far, but that cannot be taken for granted. For LGBT+/SAGA people and Muslims around the world, and everyone else who could possibly be an unintended victim of violence against them, we must fight the hatemongers who mean to turn what happened in Orlando into a daily occurrence, just so they can stuff their pockets with even more filthy lucre. There’s already been too much killing for all our lifetimes.