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For LGBT, Always That Target on Their Backs

| June 14, 2016

lgbt orlando massacre

More bloodied than rainbowed. (Courtney Boyd Myers)

By Nancy Smith

Diversity isn’t the good word liberals would have you believe. In reality, the majority of people on this planet don’t want diversity, can’t accept it in others, won’t work with the problems it presents.

This isn’t a new revelation for me or our large family. We have interracial couples among us. We have gays and lesbians. Actually, we overflow with diversity.

But it certainly is a large part of what horrified me about Sunday’s massacre in an Orlando gay nightclub.

Each of our family members who walks a different path — some of the bravest people I know — has suffered one form of cruel intolerance or another, including physical abuse, in a society that doesn’t love Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” or the rainbow she sees any more now than it did in 1986.

I know they always believed they were safe together in their clubs. “We’re LGBTs,” my granddaughter often told me with a big smile. “Together, we can do anything.”

Pulse was that kind of place. Where LGBTs could go without worrying whose footsteps were following, where acceptance and safety were givens from the minute they walked through the door.

But Sunday proved them wrong. It proved the LGBT community is still as big a target as it ever was. Maybe more hearts and minds have been changed since Cindi Lauper first saw those true colors in the ’80s. But for some people, diversity in human behavior is a bow they will never, ever tie.

Turns out we’ve seen how vulnerable the LGBTs are.

Terrorism or homophobia? CNN asked Sunday. “The answer is yes. Both.” My gay family members — maybe some of yours, too — have two fierce enemies right there, and frankly, loving them as I do, I’m terrified.

It turns out shooter Omar Marteen may have been motivated by both homophobia and Islamic radicalism. That should not come as a surprise. We’ve seen fundamentalist Islamic governments execute young gay men, and terrorist groups have done it in so many gruesome ways I haven’t the stomach to write it here.

Add to this the fact that LGBTs are largely pacifistic; they don’t pack guns, and people hunting them like Mateen know it. Are there easier targets?

I have a particular soft spot for Pulse because I know co-owner Barbara Poma’s story. The club is her life. She established it in 2004 as a kind of sanctuary in honor of her brother John, who died of AIDS.

“It was important to create an atmosphere that embraced the gay lifestyle with décor that would make John proud,” she said in a recent interview. “Most importantly, [we] coined the name Pulse for John’s heartbeat — as a club that is John’s inspiration, where he is kept alive in the eyes of his friends and family.”

Poma’s Facebook page tells us Saturday was Latin night at Pulse. Latin night always draws a big crowd — in fact, an estimated 320 people were still inside at 2 a.m. when the shooting started.

Poma posted these words against a black screen on the club’s website Home page: “Pulse, and the men and women who work there, have been my family for nearly 15 years. From the beginning, Pulse has served as a place of love and acceptance for the LGBTQ community. I want to express my profound sadness and condolences to all who have lost loved ones. Please know that my grief and heart are with you.”

I can tell you, after Sunday my fear for loved ones is on high alert. I sense big, fat targets now hang on other gay venues — other clubs, parades, celebrations, neighborhoods.

Mateen’s father, Mir Seddique, told NBC News his son was not motivated by religion. Instead, he was “angered by the sight of two men kissing during a trip to Miami.”

Don’t kid yourself. Acceptance of diversity is nowhere near a done deal.

I wish I could end this column on a note of hope. But in the end, as strong and well-wrapped as I know LGBTs are at heart, I’m just a grandmother who worries about my “peeps.” And I’m scared to death another Pulse lies ahead.

nancy smith sunshine state news columnistNancy Smith is the editor of Sunshine State News. She started her career at the Daily Mirror and The Observer in London before spending 28 years at The Stuart News/Port St. Lucie News as managing editor and associate editor. She was president of the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors in the mid-1990s. Reach her by email here, or follow her on twitter at @NancyLBSmith.

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10 Responses for “For LGBT, Always That Target on Their Backs”

  1. Veteran says:

    Wrong Nancy, Mateen was gay himself.

  2. Ok what says:

    The horrible incident was committed by a gay man. A gay man you frequented the very club he attacked. A gay man who was on gay dating websites. If…and I say if …a white man kills white people is it racially motivated? If a black man calls another black man the “n” word is he racist? This is simply a horrible act of terrorism by a gay man. Plain and simple. Stop trying to make it more.

  3. JC says:

    Turns out he was gay as well. Soooooo…..homophobia is probably not a reason.

  4. BeachcomberT says:

    Imagining gay nightclubs as happy sanctuaries romanticizes them and is deceptive. They are, first and foremost, profit-seeking businesses that charge high prices for drinks and high cover fees for generally mediocre entertainment. Hopefully, the Orlando media will look into why Pulse was allowed to have a crowd of 300-plus with just one uniformed officer on guard. Does the same lax security prevail at other nightclubs?

  5. Knightwatch says:

    So it seems we’ve got some people here that will deny that the shooter was specifically targeting homosexuals. Some blame the Pulse. Some who, along with the republican buffoon, even blame our president because he won’t utter the words “islamic terrorists”.

    But think, republicans, think… maybe it’s because the “faithful”, whether christian or muslim, have long demonized gays. Maybe because the Republican/NRA Party has given America such a national platform for anti-LGBT hate speeches that a “closet” gay, in his self-loathing paranoia, decided to kill himself 50 times over.

    A little self-introspection goes a long way.

  6. just me says:

    Was it homophobia? I don’t know as reports are coming that he was a semi regular there. What is clear is that it was an Islamic attack. One does not need to “fear” be homophobic of homosexuals as they will not make you one if your not. BUT one should fear islamists as they WILL make you dead if you do not live as they see all should live. That also includes muslims who in their view are not muslim enough to them.

  7. Sherry says:

    An excellent point Knightwatch. . . my thoughts exactly. . . the motivation quite easily could have been a mixture of things, including self loathing.

    REGARDLESS of why such killers do the unspeakable. . . we need to come together as reasonable, thinking citizens and call for an all out assault weapons ban. Such lethal weapons are only suited for one purpose and that is to KILL large numbers of human beings. Why would any “civilized” country allow such access to weapons of mass destruction?

    Take away the KILLING TOOLS in the short term. . . and solve the complex, long term problems of motive and psychosis in the long term. Meanwhile let’s save some lives!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Yes because we all know for a fact he was gay just because the media said so right? Wrong, none of you knew him or his motives. He could’ve been going there to plan it out and see all the exits and where he would corner people. He could’ve been on websites to see where the gay people go, to see where the best target was. Just because the media makes it seem one way does not mean it is true. He was not “proven” gay and we will never know if he was or wasn’t. Fucking ignorance like this is the reason we’re being killed.

  9. A Little Common Sense Please says:

    Sherry, The shooter drove a an SUV to the club to do the shooting, so lets ban all of the SUVS too! By the way what phone was he using, that needs to be banned also. And lets consider his shoes, they must have something to do with the killings, maybe they were Jerusalem cruisers.

  10. ryan says:

    Sadly, this was an Islamic extremist attack. All over the world in Islamic countries, gays are arrested and publicly executed. Mateen wasn’t gay, but like any type of predator, he staked out his targets, and acted when it was time. completely evil. If Christians and Jews have to be called out on gay rights, women’s rights, and abortion, so do Muslims. It is only fair.

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