This past Sunday marked the largest mass shooting in modern American history. Between 2:00 and 5:00AM at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL 50 people lost their lives and 53 additional people were critically injured and hospitalized. The photo I’ve included in this post is of Christopher Andrew Leinonen and Juan Ramon Guerrero. The two, just like Scott and I, were engaged to be married. The couple was among the victims that lost their lives on Sunday.
The response to this senseless tragedy has spanned from commentary on homophobia to gun control to terrorism. The reflexive response to the shooting was a nationwide cry for answers, for an explanation as to how, in 2016, something like this can happen. Who is to blame?
Omar Mateen was 29 years old. It’s been reported that he had a short temper, that he beat his wife, that he pledged allegiance to ISIS, that he was a closeted homosexual, and that his plan to attack the patrons of Pulse began when he saw two men kissing in public a few days earlier.
Gun control. Islamic extremism. Democrat. Republican. Homophobe. Hate.
The world is still mourning the lost lives with prayers and vigils and, just as I’m doing right now, people are taking to the Internet to share their outrage and sadness. I’ve been drawn toward the political response just as strongly as I’ve been drawn to join voices with the gay community to express our sadness and outrage. Instead, I’ve chosen to direct my energies towards educating myself about the faith-driven homophobia and Islamic extremism that the world has decided is responsible for the massacre. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
- Christian doctrine is less tolerant of homosexuality than Islam.
- In the United States, Muslims are more likely to support gay marriage than Christians.
- As a gay man, it is illegal for me to donate blood.
- During my lunch break tomorrow it would be legal for me to purchase a semi-automatic weapon from a sporting goods store that can fire 30 rounds in 15 seconds.
- There are somewhere between 5 and 8 million of these semi-automatic weapons in circulation in the U.S. (which is to say, among other things, that there are at least 3 million of these guns that are unregistered).
I won’t editorialize on the facts.
The fear that overcame us when we heard the news on Sunday morning was immeasurable. We had to get out of the house and go for a walk to allow ourselves to process it. What I’ve come to in the days since is a recognition of the fact there is a lot of work to do. But that was as true at 1:59AM before Omar Mateen fired his first bullet as it was at 5:00AM on Sunday morning after the terror was over.
Whatever your political, religious, or personal inclinations, the message that we all must agree on is this: love is love is love is love is love is love is love.
Omar Mateen died a monster. He’ll be remembered as one of the most violent criminals in our countries history. The other 49 people that died that day are heroes. They gathered to dance and celebrate their love and their lives and it is our duty to honor them by insisting that the conversation gets louder and more widespread.
If you’re reading this and the idea of two men kissing makes you uncomfortable, even in just the slightest way, find a friend- a gay or straight friend- and talk it out. Have that conversation. Let’s all talk about it openly and honestly. If you have questions about the gay community, if you’re curious about when I knew I was gay, when I came out, how I spend my free time… comment below. Let’s have that conversation. I’m an open book and it would be an honor to continue to spread the conversation. My only request is this, you have to teach me something, too.
The only way that we grow is to get uncomfortable. That’s the message that you read on this blog every week. Go outside of your comfort zone and learn.
I’ve shed a lot of tears for the victims of the Pulse massacre. I’ve shed a lot of tears for Omar Mateen. Today, as I’m writing this, I am crying my last tear of mourning. It’s time to shift my energy and love to healing, to offer myself up to the world as an ambassador of tolerance and love. Join me.