By now, most of us have already heard the news of the deadliest mass shooting to take place on American soil.
Forty-nine people were shot and killed with over 50 others injured while attending a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, last week.
Immediately after the news broke, social media users were quick to debate issues like gun violence, Islamophobia and ISIS.
However, what happened that Sunday morning was a domestic terror attack targeting the LGBT community — the roots were homophobia that still heavily exist in our society, and everyone has a responsibility to change that if we do not want to see more tragedies like this in the future.
Society is improving. And more and more people are fighting for equality and kindness toward the LGBT community, but there is still a lot more that needs to be done. As much as there were people showing love and support toward the victims and the LGBT community, hate and bigotry were just as present.
Utah Lt. Governor Spencer Cox addressed a vigil the day after the attack giving a beautiful apology for previously not treating the LGBT community with the kindness, dignity, respect and love they deserve. He also asked two important questions.
“And I am speaking now to the straight community,” Cox said. “How did you feel when you heard that 49 people had been gunned down by a self-proclaimed terrorist? That’s the easy question. Here is the hard one: Did that feeling change when you found out the shooting was at a gay bar at 2 a.m. in the morning? If that feeling changed, then we are doing something wrong.”
The fact that this shooting happened at a gay bar is relevant, and many people did not want to admit that homophobia was the cause because, really, who wants to share a trait with someone who just killed 49 people? But it is these types of dismissals that promote a culture of hate and mistreatment toward the LGBT community.
Chad Griffin, head of the Human Rights Campaign, said the gunman was somehow conditioned to believe that the LGBT community deserves to be massacred, and that it was society, not just ISIS, who conditioned that belief.
“He was hearing it from politicians and radical anti-LGBT extremists here in our own country,” Griffin said. “Every time we see legislation that puts a target on the back of LGBT people; every time a preacher spews hate from the pulpit; every time a county clerk says that acknowledging our relationships violates her ‘religious beliefs’ — it sends a signal that LGBT people should be treated differently, and worse.”
This message is also present in everyday comments, such as every time someone says, “I don’t care if they’re gay, I just don’t want to see it” or “This TV show is so good — did they really need to have a gay couple in it?” Any double standard between straight and gay couples sends a signal that gay people should be treated differently. People have a right to disagree with someone else’s lifestyle, but that’s the extent of their right.
To read comments from BYU-Idaho students that say things like “This was just a government conspiracy to promote the gay agenda” or “We can’t allow the LGBT movement to capitalize on this” is both shameful and disappointing. Capitalizing on what? The death and injuries of over 100 people in their community? Wanting to live their life without fearing murder because of who they love?
Sexual orientation is the second-largest motivator for hate crimes in the U.S., according to The Atlantic, and BYU is ranked one of the most unfriendly campuses for LGBT students in the U.S., according to The Princeton Review. The problem is definitely in Rexburg, too.
We believe it is long overdue to hate less and love more and remember the victims of the Orlando shooting whose basic right to life has been stolen from them forever.
“So may we leave today with a resolve to be a little kinder,” Cox said. “May we try to listen more and talk less. May we forgive someone that has wronged us. And perhaps, most importantly, try to love someone that is different than us. For my straight friends, might I suggest starting with someone who is gay.”
Regardless of religious or political convictions, opinions on homosexuality do not matter in this case because 49 people were killed due to their sexual orientation — and that is what matters.
While thoughts and prayers are appreciated, it is not enough to change the homophobic fabric that is woven in this country. Opening our minds, being unified as a country and changing our attitudes and respect for those who may live differently than you do, will.