Stories have the power to change the world … they inspire us, teach us, connect us. This is the twenty-sixth installment in the “Stories That Change The World” series.
Forty-nine people were killed and more than 50 were wounded when a gunman launched an assault on a gay nightclub in Orlando in the early hours of June 12 around the time when the club was about to close.
I have a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. We have more than 1,100 moms in the group. I’m sure you can imagine our reaction after we heard the news Sunday morning.
We gathered together in the online group to share our horror, sympathy and fear – to encourage and support one another – to check on each other’s kids.
In the aftermath many of our kids wrote heart felt messages on social media.
Their words tore at our hearts, brought tears to our eyes and made us proud.
Following are words from some of our kids that we think people need to hear:
Being gay unfortunately comes with a lot of problems & concerns that you have to face on a daily basis. Every time I meet a new group of people or start a new job, I have to wonder to myself if living authentically is worth facing potentially being treated differently and experiencing discrimination. I work as a tutor and teaching assistant at three different schools, and I am ashamed to admit that I often feel compelled to hide my sexuality from my students in order to maintain professionalism because unfortunately, the I was born might make some feel uncomfortable learning from me or even being in the same room as me.
Every single time I’m with a man I care about, I am forced to make a choice. Is holding their hand or kissing them in public worth the risk? Do I hide how I feel and live and fear or stand proud of who I am? More often than not, I make the decision to hide who I am out of fear, and doing so leaves me feeling so guilty, upset, and angry in a way that I can’t even put into words. Every time I see a straight couple holding hands in public, I can’t help but feel angry- angry that I can’t do the same without feeling incredibly uncomfortable due to the judgments of others and feeling that my safety is at risk. Unfortunately, there is much more than just dirty looks or rude comments at stake as the shooting in Orlando & the shooting that nearly occurred at LA Pride have reminded us all. There is still a vast amount of hate, intolerance, & homophobia, and gay people & other members of the LGBT community are still regular victims of hate crimes. Feeling safe with a significant other is often fleeting because the harsh reality of stories like this are always in the back of your mind. Every time I leave the house, my mother worries about whether or not I’m going to come back safe, which may seem trivial until things like this horrible shooting happen. The next time you think to yourself why gay people care so much about the right to marry, to not be denied service by local businesses, or feel the need to celebrate who they are at gay pride events, just remember that we spend our entire lives without even a basic sense of safety, and these are just a few things that make us feel a little less fearful and actually give us a sense of pride in who we are. All we want are the basic rights that everyone else has – to be treated with respect, to have the same legal protections as other citizens, to not be hated for the way we were born, and to feel safe.
My thoughts are with the victims, their friends, families, & significant others, and all other affected by this shooting.
– John Marc Austin
I watched this video about the victims and when it was listing all their names I just kept seeing my name pop up next. One of them had just gotten there that day with his family for vacation. I don’t know how to move on from that yet.
– One Mom’s son
There’s been a lot of news around the hateful crime that occurred in Orlando yesterday morning and honestly I have been numb…This evening I read this story of a son’s last text to his mother and it completely broke me. I came out of the closet at the age of 22 after living a life of fear, but since then I have been blessed beyond belief. The support my family and friends have given me has ultimately been a privilege many don’t have. Last year I had the opportunity to publicly marry my best friend, a man, and had my wonderful, timid mother walk me down the aisle. This story reminded me of that beautiful bond shared between a mom and her son.
It’s hard for me to comprehend how someone could experience so much hatred and pain that would cause him to inflict hurt on so many. I pray for the victims and I ask all my friends and family to remember that we are all human. Outside of our skin color, belief system, or sexual orientation, we are human. We are all called to love. And it’s this love that calls humanity together at a time when it’s most needed. Sending love tonight to my family, friends, people I have yet to meet, and most importantly my mom who gave me life and has been there for me every step of the way. May we come to appreciate our differences.
– Chris Mateo Sharnbroich
Fear breeds hate, hate breeds violence, and violence brings tragedy. My heart breaks for all of those affected by this senseless act.
If you wonder why I fight for love, for equality, for positive change its this.
May we as a country and as the LGBTQ community come together and be united stronger. May we learn to love our brothers and sister and live together in peace. We are better than this. We can be better than this.
– Christopher Benevidez
Straight and cisgender friends- please read this.
I keep writing and rewriting what I want to say. I want to get the words right, be on point, and not have to think any more about what happened beyond seeing “like” notifications show up on my phone.
Every new detail that comes out about the shooting cuts deep again. Queer people have to be such good performers- taking in all the parts of tragedy together and creating a narrative out of it that will ensure that non-queers will do something to keep us safe.
We have to be so good at turning bodies into movements, into legislation, action, hashtags and talking points. We have to deal with the constant grilling from non-queer people who want to know exactly what we think happened, don’t you think it’s interesting that…? Do you wonder if…? Is this really about…? And we have to always have an answer.
We have to be prepared to be recognized while out shopping for groceries, to be confronted by an ally who wants to tell you exactly how horrible they think the most recent tragedy was, describing in detail the trigger you’ve been tiptoeing around for days. They bring up our body counts in conversation, numbers without names, armed with loaded guilt complexes pointed right at your chest. Answer. Answer. Answer. Bleed.
One of the first things I thought about when I heard about the massacre in Orlando was my GSA. I thought about how our first meeting of the year we had roughly forty people attend, a grand majority of them were queer, not allies. I thought about all their faces, their friendships apparent through where they sat and who they talked to, their exuberance and beauty and queerness that welcomed me into a space we had created together. Safety. Forty.
I couldn’t even match up every face with a number- there were ten more people murdered in Pulse than who attended that first GSA meeting, not to mention those injured, but already I was cut into pieces. That’s the difference here- the difference between allies spreading information and queer people trying their best to take one more breath. I know what a room full of queer people looks like- and not just that. I know their names.
My friends, my family, are made up of queer people- shy and expressive, into theater or engineering or social work, falling in love with best friends and holding hands with strangers. I know what it feels like to go your whole life denied safety and equality and to walk into a room with other people like you, I know the release and comfort, the tiny chunk of heaven that you cherish for a little while before you must again leave. Allies don’t realize that the people in Pulse died with their masks off. Allies don’t realize we have to wear masks at all.
Maybe the shooter in Orlando was gay. Everyone seems so concerned with that. I see straight people saying that if he was, then that means homophobia wasn’t a factor in deciding to shoot up a literal gay club. The amount of ignorance it must take to believe such a thing is insurmountable. If a closeted gay man decides to slaughter a club full of queer people, what in God’s name could be a motive /besides/ homophobia? Is it now our fault, queer people, as a community? Because it was one of “our own”?
There is a reason that the Orlando shooter assaulted over 100 people. And, straight America, it is your fault.
It is your fault that homophobia and transphobia are rampant within culture, society, and government. It is your fault that queer people must choose between being a member of society and being who they really are. It is your fault that a homophobic mass murder is being blamed on religion instead of on homophobia. It is your fault when queer people hate themselves. It is your fault when queer people kill themselves. What happened in Orlando is your fault.
All of you are guilty- those who shake their heads, wipe away one tear as the news story plays, while queer people curl up on bedroom floors and beg God to wake them up from this nightmare. Those who follow the story and hetero-splain what ISIS is on Facebook to make a case that this wasn’t REALLY about it being a GAY club, it was a MESSAGE- while I weep, screaming into my partner’s chest that this isn’t fair, this isn’t fair, I’m scared I’m so scared. You are guilty when you don’t know what it looks like to see the light in the eyes of queer people who have been waiting to see the face of another queer person for hours, days, months, years, a lifetime, you are guilty when you don’t feel the ache of imagining that light extinguished. You are guilty. You are guilty for every homophobic, Trump-loving relative who you tolerate in front of children who may one day ask themselves if they are safe to come out as queer. You are guilty for every homophobic, transphobic joke you chortle at in the safety of your own home while we avert our eyes to the ground and feel a graveyard of grief with every crack. You are guilty for our dead. You are guilty for desiring a broken-window smile from every queer person you meet so that you feel better. You are guilty. You are guilty. You are guilty.
So tell the queer people you know that you love them. That you are sorry for this world that is so hostile, so evil to them. Tell them you will stay up all night with them if that’s what they need. Do it. Walk to their house at 2 am with candy and hugs. Listen to their cries into the telephone receiver. Tell them it’s okay to turn off the news. Ask them what they want, what they need. Learn to love the way that queer people must love- passionately. Give them room if they need room. If they tell you they don’t want to talk to straight people, tell them you respect that. Call your local LGBT center, ask how you can help. If you have money, donate it to a queer person’s GoFundMe page. Call your legislator and tell them how you feel about discriminatory laws. Tell your child, /no matter how young/, that they do not have to be straight or cisgender. Google what cisgender means. Read more than one article. Ask yourself, if your child one day comes out as trans, what will they think of you? Stand in front of bigoted protesters at pride instead of carrying the rainbow flag. Write blog posts to other straight people about how they can help. Write blog posts to queer kids whose families are unkind. Volunteer as an adviser for a GSA or a LGBT youth group. Ask yourself how you contribute to evil. Stop doing it. Do better. Grow. Cry. Don’t cry for yourself. Cry for the countless lives torn to pieces.
Help us put this world back together again.
– Aiden Ramirez-Tatum
I don’t see why people feel the need to express how they believe the “gay lifestyle” is sinful right before they say that despite that fact, they stand with theLGBT community with love.
I dare them to make that their opening statement right before addressing the parents of those who were killed or injured in the attack.
I find it contradictory to say such a hurtful condemning thing among such lamenting right before claiming Godly love.
You would never say that of a person who struggled with any other “sin”. You would never say after someone died “despite what I believe about lying, I choose to pray for the family of so and so…”
It’s insensitive. Stop.
– Tiffany Sparks
I’m not surprised by the incident. Am I angry? Yes. Am I saddened? Yes. Does my heart break, does my soul ache, am I outraged? Yes! But am I surprised? No. I’m not surprised that we had another act of violence like this. I’m not surprised at all.” This, on top of all the rest, breaks my heart once again. – Chris
I chose not to write or post this yesterday because I wanted to not only allow the families and friends of the victims time to mourn, but chose to silently mourn myself. I did not know any of the victims personally no, but we are all brothers and sisters in humanity. 50 of our fellow humans were shot down in cold blood, 53 injured heartlessly by the same person. I will not take this chance to dump excessively on Trump for his statements made after the horrific events of yesterday. No instead I will focus on the root issues and statements made in general.
First and foremost, it is NOT the victims’ faults. It does not matter that Pulse is a gay night club and the patrons who were killed were gay or bisexual. What matters is that they were humans, expressed love, kindness, and every other emotion that humans share. Do not blame the victims for being gay or at Pulse. Gay night clubs such as Pulse are generally meant to be a safe place for LGBT people, as it is one of the only places where it is almost assured that you are in good company. This safety was torn apart and cast more fear into a community already drenched in it.
It is not the fault of Islam either. All evidence points to the shooter being fueled only by homophobic beliefs. No those beliefs are not an extension of any Islamic faith. Yes the man was Middle-Eastern, but friends and family alike say that he was not religious and that he had claimed being disgusted by seeing two men kiss on the sidewalk earlier. Sorry Trumpy, but you can not (well you can and have but it is a logical and literal fallacy) blame this on “Radical Islamic Terrorists!!!” Blame it rather on an environment built to breed hatred and division.
It is unacceptable that we as a country, as the human race, have allowed the hatred and division between us all to grow to this point. Using a device made explicitly to kill and injure, a man did just that. His motive based on hatred. Solve the hatred, solve the issue. We are all one people, yet we still divide amongst sexuality, creed, skin color, and other stupidly irrelevant issues when faced with the fact that we all share this Earth, and are all humans. No one person is less than another, and all are equal. Yet because we have politicians who spout toxic fumes comprised of misunderstood and cherry-picked scriptures, or who just breed hatred and division by denouncing specific groups of people, division will continue to multiply until it overtakes us all. The religious right has played a part in this, as have the leaders of many other foreign countries and their governments, (Russia, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, to name a few). Racism is rampant in many other countries as well, growing among people in Western Europe, South Africa, and other nations. The politicians and radical groups that have divided us are part of the problem. Hatred itself is the problem. Hatred is taught, not learned, and until we can stop it from being taught, we must fight to end its spread. Take up arms not with guns or knives, but with your hearts. Show each other compassion, fight vocally for laws to fight discrimination of all kinds, not just kinds that benefit you, and never stop. The day we submit and provide silence, those who we fight against and that which we fight to stop will see our silence as consent. Fight with love, it is the strongest weapon ever granted to humankind.
Take the time not to focus entirely on gun control or any other relevant issue presented, especially those that do naught but divide more, but on hatred. Hatred breeds hatred.
– Caleb (from his blog Collectivist Caleb)
Like many people, I’ve spent much time in the last 24 hours thinking about the shooting in Orlando. I certainly don’t have much to offer when it comes to the dialogue about motives or blame or policy solutions. I trust that better minds than mine are at work figuring all that out.
Situations like this feel powerless, but what I will offer is my own small attempt at solidarity. It’s likely that many of you don’t know this, but I’m gay. For fear of making waves, I’ve kept this information relatively private until now. But today I feel convicted that the only way that we as a society can move forward toward a more just future is for more of us to openly talk about our lives and stories. Though I’ve been blessed to avoid bodily harm because of my sexuality, Orlando is a reminder that many of my LGBTQ* brothers and sisters are not so lucky. I hope that all of us (whatever your stance on LGBTQ* issues) can agree to fight violence, bigotry, and hate toward sexual minorities.
From here on out, I plan to use whatever small platform I have to speak out against discrimination and hatred directed toward the LGBTQ* community and to authentically demonstrate with my life that I am not ashamed of my sexuality. In fact, I’m thankful to be gay.
BEFORE YOU POST – I know that this is difficult for some of you to hear, and I look forward to thoughtful and mutually respectful dialogue with those of you who, though we may disagree over the moral status of my sexuality, wish to talk to me about it. My only request is that any public posts be positive: if you have criticism to offer, please send it to me privately.
– Josh Green
With all of the wonderful strides the LGBTQ+ community has made in recent years, it can be easy to forget that being gay and celebrating that love together is a brave political act. Queer people live in a world that constantly reminds us it is not made for us and often doesn’t want us. Our history, health, stories, and successes are relegated to the sidebar of the textbook mainstream. Included but not accepted, tolerated but not celebrated.
With 50 casualties so far, the Orlando shooting is the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. The media is downplaying the fact that it was a gay bar by focusing on the skin colour and name of the shooter, but this was an act of homophobic violence. This was a hate crime. People have already come out of the woodwork to say it was the “Lord’s work” and spew other homophobic vitriol. My heart goes out to our brothers and sisters who were lost in an act of hate this morning and to the current generation of LGBTQ+ youth who are struggling and have once again been told in the worst way that their identities are unnatural, unwanted, and unvalued.
This Pride month is a time of celebration, but it is also a time to remember those that came before us. Those who lived through the medicalization of homosexuality, those who were ignored during the AIDS epidemic, those who have lost their homes, families, and lives just for being who they are. We can celebrate how far we’ve come, but cannot forget how far we still need to go.
– Shannon Brown
One mom’s daughter wrote a letter to her church:
Hello, My name is Heather and I have been attending this Church for just over 5 years. I have participated in small groups for 4 of those years, I’ve served on Do Justice, I’ve participated in many Singles Series and Singles Gatherings, and most importantly, I’ve experienced immense growth in my relationship with God and fellow Christians.
When I moved to Atlanta from Boston I was as far from God as I have ever been. I was raised by a loving, Christian family but could not reconcile the teachings of my childhood with the judgement I felt from the church. I couldn’t follow a religion that chastised differences and demoralized people for not fitting the mold of what a Christian “should” be. To be accepted, and your growth fostered, you had to fit this mold that omitted so many. When I moved to Atlanta a very important person introduced me to this Church. After my first series, Love Sex and Dating, I knew that this Church was different. Since then I’ve continue to learn and grow in my relationship with Christ and with fellow Christians.
However, the Singles Series on June 7th transported me back to that all too familiar feeling of non-acceptance; the same feeling that kept me in hiding and far from God for most of my life. I am a gay woman, and more importantly a gay Christian. I am a follower of Jesus, the Jesus that loves all his children. Who I was born to love should be irrelevant. Yet sadly, it has been repeatedly proven to me that it’s not. I am a good woman, I give my time to those in need, I volunteer as often as I can, I love people deeply, I care and want to effect change. That is why I’m writing you today. Because those facts aside, I was made to feel as an outcast on Tuesday and I’m not sure that result was something that anyone organizing the event anticipated. I recognize that people don’t know what they don’t know, and as a gay Christian I view the world a little bit differently. I hope you can receive my input with the intention with which it was written, to advise from a point of view different from your own.
Let me try to explain.
I spent the first 25 years of my life hiding from who I was because I didn’t think it was acceptable, but I also couldn’t change it. I missed out on learning to love myself, on high school crushes and young love, and the general dating experiences that eventually shape healthy adult relationships. And more egregiously, I missed out on a real relationship with Jesus because the church showed me he didn’t love me because of who I was. I was deeply in denial, but even so my conscious mind couldn’t escape the concept of “normal’ that my subconscious had been fed from the church my whole life. I am not writing this to argue whether or not my sexuality is biblically condoned, while I do think the church’s stance on that needs revisiting, I’m more concerned with the church potentially separating people from the love of God. No one should walk into a church and feel driven away. Jesus loves all his “sheep” as the parable in Luke 15 demonstrates. The more damaging blows I’ve experienced as a gay Christian have not come in the form of outright attacks, although those have happened, they’ve predominantly come in the form of subtle messages that who I am is wrong and because of that I do not matter. I became invisible. Given that background I hope you can see how Tuesday affected me, and I’m sure affected others who don’t fit in the mold we’re all presented. I felt invisible, unimportant. My relationships are just as real and full of love as any healthy heterosexual relationship, yet the format of Tuesday’s singles series omitted me. The same information could have been presented without the gender binary, without the segregation, and without the heteronormative subtext. Why could the message not have been presented as PEOPLE trying to relate to and understand other PEOPLE? The approach taken was so upsetting your message was lost. And even worse, my church, my safe haven, made me feel overlooked. I have spent years coming to terms with myself and as much time having these emotional conversations with God. I now know he loves me, but I didn’t used to. Had I heard that message just a few years ago it would have destroyed me in a way I’m not sure you can understand. Thankfully, I have put in the work and I am ok, albeit hurt. But it’s possible someone else wasn’t ok. That sort of ostracizing leads people to do unthinkable things and at the risk of sounding extremist, that’s how lives are lost.
What I’ve come to learn is that the church doesn’t get to judge me. That is up to God, and the God I believe in made us to love. That is all I have ever wanted to do. I want Godly, Christian guidance in my relationships, and Tuesday was an opportunity lost.
I hope you can take my words into consideration. I wanted to provide a point of view that you all may not have and create some awareness. I am more than willing to provide any guidance in future matters and I know other gay Christians who could provide input as well. I would love to see a more inclusive Church. I appreciate your time in reading this and your consideration.
You won’t hear much from Christians regarding the shooting from last night because it would be too contradictory and ironic coming from a people who have continually devalued the lives of lgbt individuals by fighting against their rights and happiness. Anti-gay theology (both Christian and Islamic) has created the shooter in Orlando and the type of people who daily harass the LGBT community through violence, hate slurs and social isolation. You can’t lament the loss of life when you have cultivated the culture in which this type of tragedy is possible.
This is the fruit of our theology. It hurts people. It cultivates hatred. It devalues people who were created in God’s image. I don’t see God in it at all.
Please join me in prayer for the lives lost and the people affected in Orlando last night.
– Tim Sparks
I need to make this very clear: Do NOT pretend to care about our people when you have done everything in your power to prevent us from having safety, acceptance, and freedom. We do NOT want your prayers when you care nothing for us as human beings. Do NOT use OUR dead bodies to justify YOUR HATRED, BIGOTRY, RACISM, and XENOPHOBIA.
Yes, Islam is often used against LGBTQ people, but do you know what else is? Christianity. I’m not just talking about public torture and executions of LGBTQ people by the Church throughout Renaissance Europe. I’m talking about the continued persecution of LGBTQ people by Christian missionaries. I’m talking about anti-LGBTQ legislation (Hello North Carolina I’m looking at you) promoted by Christian leaders and congregations. I’m talking about the killings of trans people, particularly trans women of color. I’m talking about us being denied basic human rights. I’m talking about LGBTQ people being barred from the Sacraments, from Christian burial, and being excommunicated in Christian churches. You have used your religion and mine (Christianity) to justify killing, abusing, and discriminating against us for centuries. Do not pretend to care about us now just so you can have a reason to promote your hatred of Muslim people.
Where are you when LGBTQ teens commit suicide because of bullying? Where are you to help the LGBTQ homeless youth (the largest demographic of homeless youth in the US)? Where are you when children are forced into ex-gay therapy? Where are you when religious leaders tell us we are of the devil? Where are you to ensure LGBTQ people receive proper healthcare? Where were you when LGBTQ people were dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces? Where were you in the AIDS epidemic? Where were you when we were denied the right to marry? Where are you when LGBTQ people are fired from their jobs because of who they are? Where are you when so many gay and trans people must turn to sex work as a means to survive? Where are you when LGBTQ people are denied housing and employment because of who they are? Where are you when trans* people and gay people are killed in the streets? Where are you when we are bullied? Where are you when we are raped? Where are you when pastors in the south call for us to be killed? You. Weren’t. There. For. Us. And. You. Aren’t. Now.
This was targeted at LGBTQ people. This terrorist attack happened at an LGBTQ establishment DURING PRIDE MONTH. WE were the victims, yet AGAIN. Not you. Our communities have seen violence for far too long. It is time for justice. And it starts with YOU. STOP SPREADING HATRED. You think Islam is the problem? Oh, it’s not. The problem is using religion as a tool to spread hateful, fearful lies about other human beings. The problem is using God as a means to kill, torture, and oppress. The problem is gun violence. The problem is homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and every irrational fear and hatred of people different than yourself.
We don’t want your prayers. We offer up our own. Take responsibility. What we want is your action. Your change of heart. Your decision to start making the world a more loving, tolerant place. It starts with you.
This was the LARGEST mass shooting in U.S. history, and it was to kill Queer people. This mass-murdering terrorist was an American citizen. Born here. Regardless of what you think religion means, he was American. Let that sink in. We are not welcome in our own home. It’s time to change that. It’s been time.
I’ll end with this quote. Please, absorb it’s message:
“Our prayers are shallow, an affront even, as long as so much religion fails fully to affirm and include LGBT people” – Paul Colton, Anglican Bishop of Cork, Church of Ireland.
– Will Indermaur
Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group created as an extension of the Serendipitydodah blog. The group is set up so only members can see who is in the group and what is posted there. The group was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 1,100 members. The space was specifically created for open minded Christian moms who have LGBTQ kids and want to develop and maintain healthy, loving, authentic relationships with their LGBTQ kids. In addition to providing a space for members to share info and support one another, a special guest is added each month for a few days. The guests include authors, pastors, LGBTQ people, bloggers and public speakers.
For more info email firstname.lastname@example.org