I’ve struggled yesterday and today not to be so angry over the events of the last 48 hours but I’ve failed miserably. I know that my anger is born out of sadness and a feeling of helplessness. Sadness over the loss of life and helplessness over not being able to positively impact the current atmosphere of hatred and bigotry that so permeates our society. Our politicians say the polite things that are expected in the media of how sorry they are, how we must stand united against hate, and then in the next breath continue to discriminate against the LGBT community.
There have been many supportive and touching posts. However there continues to be those who in an attempt to offer support, say things that although well meaning, touch a nerve indicating that they really do not understand what the LGBT community feels. One such post I read today said: “To my friends in the LGBTQ+ community, you are so loved. I grieve with you. This is hate, and this is wrong. I'm so sorry you are feeling fear today. You are not alone. You are dear and precious and so very loved. “ Very sweet, very heartfelt, but at the same time, the person posting does not understand that although the LGBT community is indeed feeling fear today, we in the community feel fear every day. Many if not most of us, have felt the fear of being assaulted for showing the slightest affection for our partners or spouses. Many if not most of us have felt the fear of being humiliated or worse because of the way we speak or carry ourselves. Many if not most of us have feared for our safety each and every day. Of course, most of us have not had the fear of being shot while in a nightclub or bar, but if a poll was taken, I’m sure an overwhelming majority of gay individuals would admit to being fearful in some respect when walking from their cars to a club, or from an event back to their cars. I have. In college one of my most cognizant memories is of the skepticism of simply walking from my car into the gay club in Greenville. Why? Because it was not rare to be accosted while making that 50 yard dash. The same was true when visiting Raleigh or Charlotte or Greensboro. In 2012, while I was more than happy to demonstrate in front of the NC Legislature building in opposition to Amendment 1, I was also fearful of the walk back to where we parked.
Comments from religious leaders have also been abundant today. But I ask them, what have you done to quiet the atmosphere of hate that is permeating our society and your pews? Do you simply ask for prayers for the victims and their families and friends? While I do believe in prayer, we cannot pray the hate away. Have you made your voice heard publicly? Have you made your presence known? Do you actively seek out those in our community to help by offering a shoulder to cry on or a sounding board for their angst? If prayer for the victims is all you are doing for the LGBT community, then it is simply not enough. It may make you feel better, but it isn’t helping them.
I don’t know a single gay person who if asked, has not known some hesitancy or fear about being attacked, either verbally, physically or both, at some point in their lives. It’s something I’ve lived with for most of my life. In elementary school, I was ridiculed. In high school, I was assaulted. Why? Perception of being gay, perception of being different.
While I appreciate all the nice things said and the heartfelt wishes of unity, and while this is a horrific event, gay people have always lived in fear. Fear of discovery. Fear of being ostracized. Fear of assault. Please don’t think we are surprised by the events of this weekend. We are distraught. We are in shock. We ARE afraid. But we are not surprised.