Column: Terror Finds its Way to Florida

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This is a photo at the big vigil at the dr. Phillips Center in orlando honoring the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in florida on June 12, 2016. Victoria Kennedy/CNN

“If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.” - Harvey Milk

 

You thought the hate was far away.

You thought when I wrote about ISIS fighters throwing gay men off rooftops in Syria it did not affect you.

Think again. Hate has always been around the corner.

A culture of hate against the LGBT community has been cultivated for centuries, advanced by preachers and politicians who think you have always been less than a whole person.

You were deviant and suffered from mental disorders. You were not allowed to teach in the schools, serve in the military, or access the same benefits as straight couples. Marry? Forget about it, you are lucky they gave you domestic partnerships and civil unions.

IRS benefits? No chance, no way. You have always been second-class citizens. Heck, you have never been equal as humans. Your acts have been perverted, your sex queer, and your lifestyles aberrant.

Oh, all that, you think, is a relic of the past. No it’s not, not when there are religions still teaching that gays are subhuman. No, it’s not, not when there are countries like Bangladesh still lynching us . No it's not, not when we can't give blood, but our blood still flows.

America is better than it used to be, but we are not so perfect either. We ostracized AIDS patients like Ryan White and killed Matthew Shepard. Getting bullied and battered in schools today is mild compared to the electro shock therapy we got yesteryear. And gay bar patrons have been rousted and raided for decades, even right here in South Florida.

We are celebrating Stonewall with a parade this weekend. How quaint. Guess what? Stonewall was no parade. Stonewall was a riot against the police, launched by drag queens and gay bar patrons who simply had had enough. No more abuse, they said; no more beatings. They fought back.

Today, it falls upon us to fight back again. We need advocacy, not apathy. We can't just make a world safe for ourselves. We have to insure that it is safer tomorrow. First and foremost, we have to be intolerant of intolerance. We can't look the other way when we are degraded or demeaned. We have to be accepted unconditionally, not tolerated pleasantly.

Nightclubs are our private palaces, secret sanctuaries, our homes away from home, our rights of passage into our own ecosystem. They are where we first came out, met our partners, lost our virginity. Yes, they were indulgent, but they are the places where we could express ourselves, be ourselves, and enjoy ourselves dancing the night away and partying into the daytime. Whether we are doctors or deadbeats today, we all did it once. Some of you who were on that cruise just a few weeks ago are still doing it today.

We lived for years as victims of violence, but recently, we have been celebrating with court victories and legislative achievements. The shootings in Orlando are a vicious reminder that the path is not yet so clear. The road still needs to be paved, the street widened. Together, we will get there. The Orlando 49 will not have died in vain, and like Harvey Milk, they will not be forgotten. But like Harvey Milk, history will record them as part of our fallen.

But we are a community, and we will memorialize and remember them. We have a niche that we have carved, a spirit that is unique. We have survived abuses before, from beatings to bombings, from bullying to burnings, and we will rise above them today. We will not be silenced and we will not go quiet into the night.

Once we said 'Act Up.' Once we said 'we are here, we are queer, we are everywhere'. Once we said 'Loud and Proud.'  Today we say 'Orlando Strong.' We have always fought back, and we always will. Because just like your parents taught you, where there is a will, there is a way.

Mark it down that Orlando will not doom us. It will unite us. We will walk again, not in sin, but under the sun, side by side, proud of who we are, and honored by what we have achieved. Justice and righteousness is in our corner, and history is on our side.

Hope, not hate, will prevail. It always has; it always will.


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