The news hit the global LGBT community like a punch to the gut: a mass murder of 50 LGBT sisters and brothers at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Yet even as the community begins to grieve, right-wing bigots spew homophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric, opportunists erase LGBT people from their own tragedy, and abusers of LGBT rights insult the struggle for equality by feigning their support.
To be clear, the global LGBT community is no stranger to violence and hate speech. In particular, queer and trans people of color live under constant threat of bodily harm. See just a few recent examples. The fact is that queer and trans people--particularly those at the intersection of two or more marginalized identities--still die every single day because of who they love and how they look. Much of this violence is state-sanctioned.
But for a single night, 50 is a higher body count than usual.
Such a monumental massacre calls for a proportionate response--not a fear-based reaction like those we’ve seen from the right, but an even stronger response grounded in love and solidarity with our global LGBT comrades and our Muslims allies.
LGBT people and ordinary law-abiding Muslims are both demonized targets of systemic violence. This can be seen on both a domestic and global scale. Until we can quell the beast of fear-based rhetoric and the despicable violence it creates, neither of our communities will be safe.
Just last night, Rainbow Street began to receive messages of hate from individuals who want LGBT people dead:
What happened tonight in orlando you guys had it coming! God forbids you all! I dont give a damn about what happened to the gays someone was going to do it! And thank god someone did! You faggets get what yall diserved!
- Anonymous message to Rainbow Street
Statements like these pour salt into an already deep and gaping wound. But they also serve as an important and sobering reminder: The mass murder in Orlando was not the act of a single deranged individual. It was the deadly result of decades of homophobic rhetoric pushed by right-wing regimes and media outlets throughout the world. This rhetoric must be stopped.
But homophobia is not the only weapon of fear that the LGBT community must arm itself against; Islamophobia is equally to blame for this historic robbery of LGBT life. By distorting the messages of Islam and alienating Muslims at home and abroad, proponents of Islamophobia have given fuel to a political movement bent, among other things, on the destruction of LGBT people.
At Rainbow Street, we acknowledge our precarious position at the intersection of Islam and LGBT rights. As we support local activists providing basic necessities to trans and queer folks who have been abused in Muslim-majority societies, we see everyday the suffering caused by dangerous homophobic ideas. Many residents of the communities we work in condemn our work on what they claim to be religious grounds.
But Rainbow Street rejects the notion that religious beliefs can be used to justify atrocities. Allowing a religion to stand responsible excuses adherents of a particular faith from the acts of violence they’ve committed. In short, beliefs cannot be held accountable; people must be held accountable.
There’s more than one way to take a life. Proponents of hatred against Muslims and LGBT people aided and abetted the hateful individual who tore apart so many trans and queer bodies in Orlando on Saturday night. It’s now our job to stand up to this crime by standing alongside our Muslim allies. An attack against one of us is an attack against all of us. Our lives depend on our ability to greet fear with understanding, reaction with consideration, and alienation with gracious acceptance.
Still I rise
By Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.