Orlando.

When I first heard about the mass shooting in Orlando, there was a brief moment of shock and then I cried. It was 9am on the west coast and so there was already a lot of speculation about the shooter and action taken by others. Photos of the lines of people waiting to donate blood for the injured were showing up on my timeline and the standard tweets of thoughts and support were intermingled with the constant coverage.

I started listening to NPR’s coverage when I could – in the first couple hours, no one really seemed to know exactly what had happened or what was happening, the motivations of the attack, or the status of the many people injured. At first, speculation of ties to ISIS were throw around and others thought it to be a hate crime in origin, as the attack took place at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando.

As a queer person, I can’t help but think that this was a hate crime against the many LGBTQ+ folks in that club. And even if it wasn’t, it’s still difficult to feel safe right now. Especially with the current political and social climate of the country, it’s hard for me to not to see it that way. Yes, there’s same sex marriage and so much more but there’s still a lot of queerphobia here in the US that makes mere existence as a queer/LGBTQ+ a threat to our survival.

We as a community still face an inexcusable amount of violence – LGBTQ+ youth make up a disproportionate amount of the homeless youth, trans women of color (especially black trans women) face the most amount of violence than any other, and then this shooting. Not even in our own spaces are we safe from outside violence. Not even during the celebrations of Pride can we ignore the reality of violent homophobia and transphobia.

At the same time, when I found out just a little bit about the shooter, my heart sank in fear that this shooting would unleash Islamophobic retaliation against other marginalized people who had nothing to do with what happened. In the midst of thinking of all those who died or were injured today, I thought about all my queer and LGBTQ+ Muslim siblings who might feel unsafe because of this. I thought about all the violence that Muslim Americans have also faced in this country and my heart broke even more. I thought about all the Muslim Americans who have died or been attacked because they are Muslim and yet again, my heart broke. I don’t want the actions of one to result in the violence against others.

I also started thinking about all the layers to this shooting, like hypocritical people who would use this as a way to promote their own Islamophobia, while also spouting their own religiously based hatred of queer/LGBTQ+ people. I don’t want my identity, existence, and pain to be used in a way to promote violence against another. I’ve also been thinking about the ways in which we talk about mass shootings, how regular the media reporting about them has become, and how we as a society react differently to the shooter especially based on race.

Plus, I’ve been thinking about how in each mass shooting that happens, many come out and condone the violence while offering their thoughts and prayers to those who died, were injured, or impacted in another way. That is often a good start but not many people (myself included) don’t go more than that and so I’ve been thinking about how that these comments are just lip service to make those of us not directly impacted feel better. I’ve been thinking about how in each mass shooting, I have offered my thoughts and prayers in so many situations but I haven’t done anything else to prevent another shooting from happening. And it’s time that I change that.

We as a country need to be doing more – we need stricter gun control laws, we need LGBTQ+ services for all the different issues we face, we need to be calling out racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia/transmisogyny, and so much more. We need to be getting better numbers and stats about gun crime, something that Congress has prevented the CDC from researching.

I’m just heartbroken and really sad about this shooting and the many that have come before it. I honestly don’t really have the words to describe this intense sorrow because despite the fact that this continues to be an ugly trend in the US, each one that happens is still antagonizing and sad. My heart goes out to all those impacted by this latest shooting and I’m ready for the day in which this is no longer a common occurrence. It’s time that we all (again, myself included) start working towards that.

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