I feel as if I am giving you all a massive disservice today. Had this event occurred in any other state, I might have a better, more well-researched article for you. But I am a queer Floridian, and I am tired. So today, this is an opinion piece more than a real article.
I consider myself exceedingly lucky that, on a fluke, none of my family were in Orlando. I cannot say that for many other people. I cannot say that for those who were in Pulse during the shooting. My heart goes out to all of them. I will screw up my courage and try to go find a blood bus to donate blood tomorrow. Fortunately, I slip in just under the ban for blood donation, and my dedication to my community has trumped my almost insurmountable sense of stubbornness against an unfair and homophobic ban. It is a different kind of pride, now.
Pride to me has always meant a sense of community forged in the pit of struggle, and that is the banner I fought under while forming Benji’s Closet / Phoenix Collective. Brought together through mutual trial, we will rise up together, hand in hand. Not just despite our differences, but because of them, the LGBT+ community has been strong and vibrant. We may have our infighting, but overall our bond has transcended many obstacles.
Many of us have learned to forgive those who hurt us. I am not asking for that forgiveness now. Many of us have had to deal with loneliness, and isolation, and a sense of bitterness at a world that does not understand us because of who we are, and we have overcome it and accomplished wonderful things. We have risen from the ashes, and the world made phoenixes of us all.
I am asking for one thing, though. What I am asking for is for us to band together, collectively, and understand that our real enemy here is not Muslims. I am not going to argue the difference between radical groups and mainstream practices here, as I am wont to do. I am too tired for that. But I know who our real enemy is, and it is not those who exist and practice their religion in peace. It is those individuals who do not become phoenixes – people who look at a hateful world and decide to respond with hate toward innocent lives.
Yes, the shooter claimed his actions in the name of ISIS. His status as a practicing Muslim was tenuous at best – he didn’t pray, and wasn’t celebrating Ramadan this month. ISIS exists to make Americans hate Muslims. It generates the very hate that drives people to the point of action – either to become a phoenix and rise above it, or to lash out with violence and hatred toward those who are not responsible for their suffering but who are far easier targets.
I write this with a particular friend of mine in mind – a closeted lesbian, Muslim, who wears the hijab. She is a spitfire of a woman who I would never want to cross and she is always the first to help someone in need. She is kind, perceptive, and always willing to lend an ear to someone I think about how to many people, her very existence is a scapegoat. To me, she is a kind friend who I love dearly, and I know she is mourning with us. I know there are many more women – and men, and others – like her. Just as we in the LGBT+ community show our love for each other under the mindset that we all share a common bond of humanity, I would show them the same love I do to her.
We cannot allow hate to divide us. We cannot fall for the pathetic misdirection of a group that generates hate and rakes in those not strong enough to rise above it. We must stand together and rise above it. We must give our blood, and sweat, and tears, to those who need our help the most right now. But we cannot let islamophobia infiltrate our group. We must not. We are better than that. We are tired, we are hurt, but we are not broken.