I wrote this on Sunday but I wanted to wait a few days before sharing it, so I could read through it again after the first emotions had calmed.
First, if you live in the Orlando area please, please, please consider donating blood. Even if the victims of this shooting don’t need it, there is now a deficit and someone else will.
Second, please consider donating to the Pulse Tragedy Community Fund. It was set up specifically to help the victims and their families. Prayers are nice, donations are better.
Thirdly, these are my personal thoughts as I work through my feelings about this tragedy. Most of this post is written on Sunday, but published on Tuesday. Things are still raw. I am not trying to draw attention away from anything or stand on a soapbox. The horror and heartbreak from the deaths and injuries that occurred as the result of one man’s hatred are unfathomable. This is my way of dealing with something that deeply affects my community. When at a loss, I search for something to do, some way to help. Along with the links above, I have the post below:
Disclaimer: In the past, I have generally used LGBT or LGBTQ as my acronym-of-choice. I realized recently this is not as inclusive as I’d like to be, so I’m relying on LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual/biromantic, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex/intergender, asexual/aromantic/agender, and others who might fit under the “queer” umbrella).
*Takes a deep breath*
As I write this, we don’t know exactly why the shooter went on this horrendous massacre. Some reports said he was enraged when he saw two men kissing and planned out the attack. I don’t know if that’s true but I believe it.
My God. How horrible is that? I live in a country where someone can say, “He saw two men kissing and decided to carry out a massacre” and believe it. Like, that is something I could actually imagine someone doing. And now, someone has.
And it wasn’t the act of kissing. No, the answer is not to tell people to express their love in private (unless they’re straight). That was only the visual trigger. It was that man’s (I will not say his name on this blog) bigotry and hatred and sense of rightness that enabled him to commit this atrocious act.
And I have to think, Why do I so readily believe this? Why is it so easy for us to accept this?
Is it because we have become accustomed to massacres at the hands of gunmen? Is it because we don’t normalize depictions of same-sex relationships? Is it because there is still a lot–and I mean A LOT–of shame that society heaps upon LGBTQIA+ individuals and so bigots like this one man feel justified in their hatred? Is it that several religious mouthpieces in the U.S. have frequently advocated for that? Is it that state-sanctioned homophobia and discrimination exists? Is it that the fight for equal rights did not end with the Supreme Court’s decision to allow same-sex marriage nationwide?
For me, in this tangle of thoughts, it comes back to one thing I might actually be able to affect:
Is it because we don’t normalize depictions of same-sex relationships? In our TV shows, our movies, our books, our social narratives, LGBTQIA+ relationships receive pushback every. single. time.
Just look at Budweiser. They aired one commercial with two wildly popular comedians at a gay wedding and the bigots of Twitter exploded with rage and vows to never drink Budweiser again.
Over a commercial. A commercial. Nobody likes those things anyway.
Just look at Target, who insisted that you could use whichever bathroom corresponds with your gender and received similar backlash.
Even in the LGBTQIA+ community, that “T” is often overlooked–and don’t even get me started on the “A” which stands for asexual/aromantic/agender and not ally straight people so stop erasing the aces.
My point is that the token gay characters still receive headlines when they don’t fit stereotypes–because many viewers can’t imagine a gay man who isn’t flamboyant or a lesbian woman with long hair. Many shows that introduce gay characters don’t have them hold hands, flirt, or kiss (ever or for a long time) with their S.O. because producers think audiences don’t like that, while the straight characters may have sex on screen.
Okay, okay, I’m off track a bit. I mentioned something about being able to change the narrative. Well, I’m a writer. And, more importantly, I’m a reader.
You heard me. Writing LGBTQIA+ characters is important and writing them well is extra important but I read WAY more books than I write. And I review those books on Amazon (where publishers might notice) and Goodreads (where other readers might notice).
Let’s read stories about people who aren’t straight. Let’s watch them. Let’s shout those stories to the world so that more people read and watch them. Let’s leave AMAZING reviews on Amazon so publishers get the hint that we WANT to see more of these characters.
As writers, let’s make sure our LGBTQIA+ characters are authentic and don’t fall into tropes and stereotypes. Even with queer characters in fantasy, dystopian, or sci-fi, let’s make sure they resonate with LGBTQIA+ readers.
Let’s stop queerbaiting in our shows and our books and stop putting up with it in other’s work.
Let’s DEMAND appropriate, fair, and REAL representation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual, aromantic, pansexual, agender, nonbinary, intersex, genderfluid, sexually fluid, and anything else I forgot (and I apologize for that) individuals and people in our media. Maybe, just maybe, if the majority is openly and loudly against the bigotry and hatred of these individuals, maybe we can save some lives.
And have better stories.
But, perhaps most importantly, let’s never stand for the any rhetoric that puts LGBTQIA+ individuals as “other” whether it comes from our neighbors, our coworkers, or our presidential candidates. Stop making excuses for the bigots in your life, arm yourself with the words to calmly and reasonably challenge this hateful language, and then follow through in your support–whether that be words, money, time, or actions.
Speak out while you still can and help change the social narrative to one of diversity and acceptance.
Last-minute add in:
Please also check out the following posts which make other, more eloquent points than mine:
Know there is support on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites if you need it.