In the United States Constitution, the Fourteenth Amendment states that “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States….” In this post, I will talk about the unfortunate, and unfair, laws and de facto policies that allow for violence like the massacre at Orlando.
In the past few months, we have read about laws in North Carolina and Mississippi that legalize discrimination against the Queer community while North Carolina specifically bans trans* people, in particular, from the simple right to self-identify. In less than two weeks, we will be celebrating the one-year anniversary of gender-neutral marriage equality in the United States while, undoubtedly, continuing to mourn the loss at Orlando. We are clearly at a crossroads in society wherein we must face the American reality which includes addressing the needs of all communities. Now that we have had gender-neutral marriage equality, it seems like advocacy among some in the Queer community is waning in terms of the passion involved but if this massacre does anything for us as a collective, it serves to remind us and unite us in the struggles that we still face. Now whether or not the authorities can confirm that the shooter himself was gay, the truth is still that he clearly took to heart the hatred and negative messaging that many in society overtly spout against our community and this is what planted the seeds of hate that led to this horrific event in our history.
With all of the hate that we face in society, why don’t we have discrimination protections? That’s a good question and, often, those who consider themselves religious claim that it infringes on their rights. But the truth is that the same argument is what segregationalists used to deny ethnic and racial minorities public accommodation, housing and employment. The truth is that only bigotry stands in the way of legislation or laws that prevent such discrimination from occurring. While we have inaction on laws to protect the Queer community, we will continue to live in de facto discrimination and, in the cases of Mississippi, North Carolina, and Indiana, de jure discrimination in America. And while the American people choose to be inactive in changing laws (e.g. Houstonians) lives will continue to be harmed or lost. It is one thing to claim that you’re supportive of efforts by the Queer community to be included in the social discourse but it’s another to actually do something to keep our Queer existence safe. And at the same time, the LGBTIQ community, and others, will continue to be harmed by policies that only target one issue at a time rather than also tackling the problems faced by those in the intersections of multiple communities (e.g. queer, disabled, ethnic minority, and low income). At the end of the day, many issues, such as gun control, poverty, and educational attainment, are issues that affect multiple communities and so inclusive solutions, rather than targeted solutions, will best serve all communities involved. The Queer community has fought tooth-and-nail for long-awaited gender-neutral marriage equality that needed to happen. However, we ignored issues, such as LGBTIQ teen homelessness, trans* acceptance, or gun control – too often putting these issues aside until it was too late for too many. And it has been too late for many gay teens who committed suicide, for those who died at Orlando, for the trans* activists of Stonewall, and for way too many members of our embattled community.
But the good news is that we have more time and we can make a difference. We can, finally, hold our politicians accountable for their anti-LGBTIQ policies, for their pro-NRA funds, and for their ignorance and inaction regarding social progress and change for our community. We also have a chance to build bridges. I have seen many in the Muslim community speak out against the massacre projected by a shooter who just so happened to self-identify as Muslim but was, in reality, not at all devout and committed the ultimate sin during the holy month of Ramadan and was one of the purveyors of the perversion of both the religion of peace and the freedom that characterize Western society.
This means enforcing the Fourteenth Amendment rights of every American, not infringing on their Fourth Amendment rights. This means passing LGBTIQ-inclusive laws, not forcing anti-gay and anti-queer hate. This means uniting all Americans, regardless of their background, not dividing us using the classic us vs. them fallacy. This means uniting in love, not fostering hate.
The silver lining of such a horrific event is that we can honor these victims by living our lives and working towards a better world and a better tomorrow for our nation and our world. We must embrace all of our neighbors and remember that we live, we thrive, and most of all – we love as a human collective.
With best regards and love,
Christopher Sugatan Fornesa