It seems like every single time a tragedy involving a gun occurs in America, people automatically turn to the mental health of the individual. Granted, we have a serious mental health crisis in America wherein the most of the people who are mentally ill in this nation are not getting the help, treatment and government-supported aid that they need. However, to automatically revert to mental illness is troubling in itself.
The most unfortunate thing about our society is that we tend to paint entire subsets of people with the same brush, for some reason, despite the individualistic nature of American society, we would rather stereotype entire groups of people as a means to excuse horrifying things that happen to them. For instance, anti-gay sentiment has always been rampant in our society but the amount of sheer hate that followed the tragedy at Orlando made it clear that we have so much for to do to be able to say that we’ve actually achieved progress. I am a firm believer that privilege should always be questioned and checked, however, when you do it as an affront to tragedy, it is both tasteless and counter-intuitive to your own advocacy. I have seen posts that contest simple claims made by the media that the recent tragedy was the worst mass shooting in American history which has now been changed to the distinction of being the worst mass murder on American soil since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. To counter the prior claim, many have posted content such as massacres on Native American and Black people with the claim that those were the worst mass shootings on American soil. Despite the initial mislabeling, we know that 49 people were murdered because they were at a setting frequented by the LGBTQIA community. This was a targeted attack on our community and we were the ones targeted. Mass shootings targeting any community are horrific because they are based on hate and bigotry but this one, in particular, targeted us!
What I am most angry about is that people tend to ignore the simple fact that our queer existence exists in literally all backgrounds, you can be any race, ethnic group, disabled or not, neurodivergent or not, a member of the military, pregnant, young or old, any gender, outside of the gender binary, and so on… and be lesbian, gay, bi, pan, trans, queer, questioning, ace, or any other sexual orientation and gender identity/alignment that has been historically marginalized. LGBTQIA people of color have led American movements that resulted in social change for their recognition as human beings. All our community is asking for is to be given the same recognition for the characteristics that unite us!
Here’s the thing, not only are we Orlando, we are also you, and you are us, we are together and we are the same, we are humanity!
The unfortunate side-effect of identity politics is that we choose to divide ourselves and splinter ourselves rather than unite together. When we use Trumpian rhetoric that only serves to alienate others to, ironically, attempt to bring us together (which backfires big time), we never make progress. Everything good that has ever occurred in the history of humanity have been the result of collaboration!
Unfortunately, we still believe that we can be homophobic, transphobic, ableist, and basically just xenophobic. We tend to, as a society, see the LGBTQIA community as foreign, we see disabled people as foreign, we see immigrants as foreign, and we see people of color as foreign. As a result of stereotyping and categorizing entire communities, social movements ranging from #blacklivesmatter to the Abolitionist Movement, to the Civil Rights Movement, to the Feminist Movement, to the Gay Rights Movement and to the Disability Rights Movement have emerged. However, the ability to collaborate with the mainstream and with the public to influence the social discourse has been the litmus test for the success of these movements. But now, we know and revere many of the figures who led these movements.
And so with our history of American social movements, I find it completely surprising that history keeps repeating itself. I find it surprising and abhorrent that there is homophobia, transphobia and ableism even among communities that benefited from social movements that encouraged their self-determination. Violence and discrimination against the LGBTQIA and disability communities are among the worst in modern times and, yet, remain the most tolerated. In fact, LGBTQIA people face the most hate crimes out of those in any other individual classification! And according to one survey of disabled people, 83% of Americans with disabilities report having faced hate speech in the past year, with 18.2% just in the past week!
America it has a hate problem.
It does not have a mental health problem.
Americans need to empathize with the LGBTQIA community, Americans need to empathize with the disability community, Americans need to empathize with the Black and Latino communities (let’s not forget that most of the people who were killed at Orlando were Black and Latino), and Americans need to empathize with the Muslim community.
America, please, wake up and stop the hate!