I Don’t Deserve to Die

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I Don’t Deserve to Die

A pride flag flies alongside an American flag.

A pride flag flies alongside an American flag.

Tribune News Service

A pride flag flies alongside an American flag.

Tribune News Service

Tribune News Service

A pride flag flies alongside an American flag.

Felix Kalvesmaki, Commentary editor

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Mass shootings, sadly, are regular. Waking up to “Dozens dead after gunman opens fire” on my lockscreen has become all too familiar. That, alone, is horrifying to me. The fact that senseless, needless, quick and painful death is so cyclical and overlapping should alarm anyone, no matter where your opinions lie and which side you take during the consequential discussions. While pessimism thrives in this world, and I’ll admit, I take part in it, I would hope that sentiment hasn’t yet turned to nihilism.

However, Sunday, June 12, was different for me. Waking up with the sun peeking in through my curtains at 11 a.m., rolling over in bed and grabbing my phone, and reading a passing headline from The New York Times on yet another story of open fire, was different because of who was specifically targeted.

Omar Mateen stood outside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and let bullets fly into a room full of men and women who were proud to be LGBT+.

I’m going to clear this up quickly, so my perspective on this incident isn’t lost on you later on: I am gay. And proud of it. And I have no reason to feel any other way. Moving on.

It took a few moments for the intensity of this attack to settle in for me, to be quite honest. But after scrolling through my timeline on Twitter, seeing the horrified statements from my LGBT+ friends, the situation struck me with the force of a car. 103 people were shot and 49 of them were dead, making this both the deadliest shooting in American history, and the deadliest terror attack since 9/11. And it was carried out for the sake of hatred against my community.

That stung. It stung intensely.

Everything felt annoying or saddening the entire day. Nothing that would usually make me happy did anything for me. I could’ve won a million dollars and I wouldn’t have really cared until I woke up the next day. And I ranted, with anger, with passion and with fury, for a solid six hours. To Twitter, to my family, to friends before everything just got too draining, and suddenly, I was tired. I was tired of feeling scared to live. And there was one thing I couldn’t shake for the whole day, that’s truthfully been rattling around inside my head for a few years now. I never knew how other LGBT+ people felt about this, and it could go for women and people of color as well, but it’s a sentiment I would hope anyone would find disturbing.

There’s a solid chance I will be the victim of a hate crime. There’s a solid chance I will die because someone disagrees with me. And there are people, whole communities, in fact, that hate me with a burning hostility, solely because I exist.

Let me tell you, that’s a scary thing to keep in mind. But what’s even scarier? I’m fine with it. I’ve come to terms with that idea, because otherwise, I live my whole life waiting for that moment when I’ll tick off just the wrong person.

But I shouldn’t have to.

We, as LGBT+ people, shouldn’t have to condition ourselves to accept fear, pain and possibly death because some people don’t like us.

Here’s the thing; we know people aren’t going to suddenly start accepting us at some point. We get there will always be people who disagree with our “lifestyle,” who side-eye gay couples when they hold hands in public and who simply “don’t want it rubbed in their faces.” And while that’s all intolerant and frustrating in it’s own way, it’s survivable.

Homophobia can be passive or aggressive. Your drunk relative going on a rant about how gay people defy their own religious beliefs, and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to exist, is one thing. But it goes to an entirely other level when that relative decides the best course of action is to try to harm said gay people.

Passive homophobia is something that will always exist, and I’ve come to terms with that. But the more important thing is, the fact that this was a gay hate crime is being swept under the rug in favor of “Islamic radicalism” and so far fruitless and unproductive discussions about gun control, and that has to stop. Because that, ladies and gentlemen, is allowing homophobia to not only survive, but thrive in this nation.

And yes, it was a hate crime. By definition, it was. Our president could hardly acknowledge that, nor did our candidates for president without a back-handed agenda, but it was a hate crime. It’s being excluded from headlines and buried in news leads as an unimportant detail, which hurts a lot, because it just shows the media doesn’t seem to have much space for us. And the fact that the shooter might’ve questioned his sexuality doesn’t make much of a difference. He went specifically to a gay night club to kill LGBT+ people. That’s not questionable. And to add insult to the already painfully bruising injury, it’s been left mainly to groups like the Human Rights Campaign and Twitter accounts to actually name and mourn for the dead, while news broadcasts and publications will say “Love wins” once and think they’ve accurately and concisely covered the story.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but love didn’t win. Love lost. When 49 people are dead for having pride in loving the same gender, or supporting people for doing so, during Pride month no less, love has lost.

Does this mean love has lost forever? Of course not. We, as a community and as a nation, can rebuild after Orlando. We can pass more laws protecting LGBT+ people, ensuring that the government will be on their side in the wake of a hate crime. We can speak out against homophobes, and begin to acknowledge that the “opinion” they harbor is both metaphorically and literally fatal. We can be proud of who we are, or be proud to support it. We, as a nation, can right every single wrong the LGBT+ community has suffered, and ensure nothing on this scale happens again.

But the first step, is for the world to acknowledge that we don’t deserve to die for our love and our pride.

 

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