The horrific attack in Orlando was in every sense a crime against humanity. The LGBT community came to a club to celebrate Pride month, to dance, to live openly and joyously -- to be human. And then someone whose heart was filled with hate savagely took that humanity away from them.
We cannot say that we live in a free society when LGBTQIA people have to always wonder if horrific violence is just around the corner, or creeping up in the rearview mirror. Hate crimes against this community haven't disappeared just because courts, political leaders and businesses now support expanded rights. We must remain vigilant against the threat of violence, but we must also speak out against a climate of bigotry and hatred that rejects or devalues LGBTQIA rights, the rights of women, African-Americans, Muslims or any other groups in our diverse society.
A former co-worker of the Orlando gunman, Daniel Gilroy, said his hatred of women was omnipresent and frightening. According to the Tampa Bay Times,
He said Mateen would smack things in the guard house when he got angry, openly lusted after female guests of the country club and used slurs to describe gay people, blacks, Jews and women. "He never used other words to describe them," Gilroy said. "Oh, he hated women. He thought they were objects, he thought they shouldn't be allowed to drive, he thought he should have his pick."
The Pulse tragedy is a stark reminder that women's rights advocates confronting misogyny must do so inclusively -- or, to use a word I'll be returning to in future posts, intersectionally. Because sexism, racism and homophobia are inextricably intertwined, whenever we hear a hater trash women, we must be especially aware that targets of such hate will often be our sisters of color and our sisters and brothers in the LGBTQIA community.
Kimberlé Crenshaw, the executive director of the African American Policy Forum and a professor of law at Columbia University and the University of California, Los Angeles, law schools first used the word "intersectionality" to, in her words, "light the invisibility of many constituents within groups that claim them as members, but often fail to represent them."
People of color within LGBTQ movements; girls of color in the fight against the school-to-prison pipeline; women within immigration movements; trans women within feminist movements; and people with disabilities fighting police abuse -- all face vulnerabilities that reflect the intersections of racism, sexism, class oppression, transphobia, able-ism and more. Intersectionality has given many advocates a way to frame their circumstances and to fight for their visibility and inclusion.
New York Times columnist Frank Bruni writes,
This was no more an attack just on L.G.B.T. people than the bloodshed at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris was an attack solely on satirists.
Both were attacks on freedom itself. Both took aim at societies that, at their best, integrate and celebrate diverse points of view, diverse systems of belief, diverse ways to love. And to speak of either massacre more narrowly than that is to miss the greater message, the more pervasive danger and the truest stakes.
Bruni ended his column with a quote from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti:
"Today we know that we are targeted as Americans, because this is a society where we love broadly and openly, because we have Jews and Christians and Muslims and atheists and Buddhists marching together, because we are white, black, brown, Asian, Native American. The whole spectrum and every hue and every culture is here."
It was a perfect description of the country I love.
And it was an equally perfect description of what the Orlando gunman couldn't bear.
The hashtag #WeAreNotThis expresses, once again, our solidarity with the LGBTQIA community. For me, solidarity means both that we will not be divided by gender, sexuality, race, religion, or politics and that as we embrace our diversity we bring marginalized groups to the center. That is how we will be united in celebrating our differences and strengthened by our love and respect for each other.