The monster who pulled the trigger at Pulse in Orlando was fueled by homophobia and hate. It seems very likely that hate was self-directed -- that the shooter himself was gay and he hated himself for it. I’m quite sure he grew up learning that God hates gays. I’m sure his father, who says "God will punish those involved in homosexuality," taught him that being gay was wrong, that people who are gay are less than human.
If that's the case, then the shooter's father is as guilty as the shooter himself. And so are you if you teach hate.
There is no them. There is only us. We are the ones creating a society where the Stanford rapist thinks he's entitled to do as he pleases to an unconscious young woman, and a Florida killer feels compelled to murder as many members of the LGBTQ community as he can.
These men and the many, many others like them were not born. They were made.
Yes, we need to get assault rifles off the streets.
Yes, we need to destigmatize mental illness and provide the care people need.
But above all -- we need to teach children the truth.
Not the teachings of a sect of a religion that teaches hate.
Not the anti-science nonsense.
Being gay is a reality. Being transgender is a reality. Members of the LGBTQ community deserve the same rights as anyone else. We are the same. The division is rubbish. And only the ignorant believe otherwise. Yes, I said it. If you have a problem with people who are gay, if you think that members of the LGBTQ community are somehow less than you, then you are creating an environment that breeds violence – toward everyone. That is ignorance at its worst.
And if you think the Pulse massacre was anything other than a crime against the gay community, you are wrong. Very, very wrong. We may have won the right to marry. But we still continue to live in fear because of the hate that is born of ignorance. Because of the culture of violence that is created by ignorance.
I am a lesbian. I always think twice before I hold my partner’s hand in public.
I am a lesbian. I always think twice before I say "baby" or "sweetheart" or refer to my partner as my partner or girlfriend.
I am a lesbian. I always wonder if I’ll be dismissed, disliked, passed over, ignored before the person ever gets to know me.
I am a lesbian so I live in fear of violence -- for myself, for my partner, for my daughter, for my LGBTQ brothers and sisters.
And, you know what? I am over it.
I'm too tired to be polite. I'm too sad to be PC. I'm too angry to be nice.
It's just boring old science. People are gay. Animals are gay. We've been gay since humans walked the earth. You don't have to like it. But the truth doesn't need you to like it. And it's not the Easter Bunny. It doesn't matter if you personally, or your "religion" that preaches hate, doesn't believe it. It's reality with or without you. And if you argue that it's "in the Bible," your argument is moot -- the Bible advises stoning, and recommends pricing for selling your daughter. The Bible is not a cafeteria. You do not get to pick and choose which items serve you and simply leave the rest behind.
Also? Not everyone is interested in what the Bible has to say. It is not the law of the land. Just because you interpret that your book has rules for those who abide by that book does not mean that they are actual rules or that any of the rest of us have any need to follow them.
It starts at home. It starts with parents. As the song goes, "Careful the things you say. Children will listen."
They hear you telling those gay jokes when you think they're in bed. They hear you yelling "faggot" when someone cuts you off on the highway. They hear you when you say you "hate the sin and not the sinner." They hear you when you say that two men getting married, or kids having two mommies, isn't right.
They also hear your silence. It's deafening.
Whether you preach hate directly or indirectly, whether it comes from your "religion," your fear of being gay, your lack of experience in the world, or your ignorance, it doesn't matter -- it is still preaching hate and it's deadly.
When your child thinks being gay is something horrible, he hates himself if he realizes he himself is gay. Couple that with depression and you get suicide. Couple that with mental illness and you get a mass murderer. Or maybe your child simply lives an inauthentic life of regret and carries on your legacy of hate. It's all bad.
It's all bad.
Fellow parents, it's up to us. We can work and work to change society at large and little by little it will change. But the most direct, immediate change we can make is at home.
Tell the truth. Stop with the ignorant, backwards thinking and tell the truth. Men and women. Black and white. Straight and gay. We are all equal.
People from Mexico are not stealing jobs or "sending their rapists and murderers" here. True followers of Islam are not trying to blow us up. African-Americans are not waiting around every corner to rape your daughter. And the LGBTQ community is not a group of pedophiles and perverts. Studies and history have shown who is sexually abusing children and it's not the gay community. Not by a long shot.
We have to actively teach children about equality and humanity.
We have to teach them to be critical thinkers and not blind followers.
We have to teach them that the world doesn’t owe them a thing.
We have to teach them personal responsibility and accountability.
We have to teach them that they aren't better than anyone else and they are entitled only to what they work for.
We have to teach truth and kindness and compassion.
We have to teach our children to speak up and speak out.
We have to teach our children not to be bystanders.
We have to teach our children to champion the LGBTQ.
We have to teach our children that silence and inaction are as harmful as hate.
We have to teach our children that there is nothing wrong with being LGBTQ. Nothing.
There is nothing wrong with being LGBTQ.
It's one of the ways beings are born. Trying to debate that is like trying to debate whether rain comes from clouds or stars reside in the sky.
Let me say this one more time in case I am being unclear in any way -- the Pulse massacre was a crime against the LGBTQ community and hate was the underlying cause.
If you have ever told your children, whether outright or by implication, that there is anything -- anything -- wrong with being gay, then you too are culpable for the lives lost in Orlando.
The Pulse monster didn't do it alone. He needed hate to fuel him.
It seems clear that he was gay and that he hated himself because his father almost certainly told him he should. He was obviously mentally unstable. He reportedly abused his wife. And he had easy access to guns. You do the math.
And when you're done fiddling with that equation, when you come to accept the truth, that homophobia, hate, silence, ignorance -- and standing by instead of speaking up -- murdered 49 of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, I have one question for you.
What are you going to do about it?
Seriously. What are you going to do?
I know what I’m going to be doing. I'm going to be out and proud and I'm going to tell the truth. I'm going to tell anyone who will listen that hate kills. I'm going to tell people that homophobia is not about the fear of gays but about fearing being gay. And I'm going to remind my daughter every day that love is the answer and all humans are equal and the world is ours only to borrow and care for for the short time that we are all here sharing it. Sharing it.
It's enough already. Join reality -- be an active ally by teaching your kids love and acceptance -- or be prepared to be left behind. All I know is this: The gays are mad. And one thing you don't want is a country full of angry gays. We get shit done.
Jenny Block is an author and writer. She frequently writes about a variety of topics including love, sex, relationships, travel, food, and the arts.