We will not be diminished

  • Wednesday June 15, 2016
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On Sunday, Castro resident Billy Curtis added his bouquet<br>to the growing memorial at 18th and Castro streets for the victims of the Orlando<br>Pulse nightclub shooting. Photo: Rick Gerharter
On Sunday, Castro resident Billy Curtis added his bouquet
to the growing memorial at 18th and Castro streets for the victims of the Orlando
Pulse nightclub shooting. Photo: Rick Gerharter

We will not be diminished by the act of a deranged mass murderer, Omar Mateen " and yes, we will print his name " who shot up Pulse, taking 49 mostly gay Latino lives and injuring 53 others.

We will not be diminished by Mateen's possible internalized homophobia, and by the anti-gay comments of his father, Seddique Mir Mateen, who in an interview said "God will punish those involved in homosexuality," and said it's "not an issue that humans should deal with."

We will not be diminished by the mainstream media that can't comprehend that the mass shooting at the gay Pulse nightclub in Orlando is both homophobic AND terrorism.

And we will not be diminished by the likely failure of Congress to pass any meaningful gun control legislation. If the deaths of 20 first graders in Newtown, Connecticut couldn't galvanize politicians, we doubt the deaths of 49 mostly gay men of color will. That's tragic. Bringing back the assault weapons ban would be a great first step, but we're not so naive as to think that will a) actually happen and b) end gun violence.

We're not surprised in the least that Mateen reportedly had accounts on gay hook-up sites and had visited Pulse on multiple occasions.

When he called 911 from inside the club and proclaimed allegiance to the Islamic State, did he mean it? Was that just a cover for his anti-gay hate crime? We may never know. If he was gay, we do know that internalized homophobia kills " figuratively and literally. The national media may not understand how a gay person could commit such terror against fellow gays, but we do.

As the world is focused on Orlando, it's certainly worth noting that the LGBT community has been the target of violence and murder for decades. We have been murdered for who we are, for who we love, and for living our lives. On June 24, 1973, 32 people died in an arson fire at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans' French Quarter. Up until Sunday's attack in Orlando, it had been the deadliest known attack on a gay club in the U.S. In 1979 in San Francisco, uniformed police stormed the Elephant Walk bar and beat up gays, in retaliation for the protests over the light sentence given to Dan White for assassinating gay Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. And of course, the modern gay rights movement was born from police violence at the Stonewall Inn in New York City on June 28, 1969.

These incidents occurred in gay bars, which have always been a place of refuge and community for us. It wasn't safe to hold hands in public so we met our boyfriends or girlfriends at the bar. It was risky to be out at work, but we could meet friends at the bar. The gay bar became a safe haven where we could be ourselves and create our own world away from the oppression of the straight world. It often replaced church for a lot of people because decades ago, we weren't welcome there either.

The horrific murders in Orlando have shaken that safe zone to its core in every gay bar in the world. People are understandably frightened, but we cannot give in to terror and stay home. We "can't allow fear to silence us and push us back in the closet," as Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri Jean told CBS News this week. Jean's right. Even as LA's Pride parade last Sunday was also a potential target of mass violence " a man was arrested by Santa Monica police after they discovered a cache of weapons and he said he was headed to LA Pride " the crowds turned out, grieved the loss of life in Orlando and made a defiant statement that we won't be silenced.

We must continue to come out and go out. Thousands of LGBTs and our allies did, in fact, go out last Sunday night to attend vigils in cities across the country. We wanted to show our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Orlando, the same way that they would have for us.

We have achieved so much progress for our equality in the last several years. But no setback or tragedy will stop us from moving forward and affirming our existence. We will not be diminished.