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This Sunday at 2 a.m., a man walked into a packed nightclub carrying a rifle and a pistol. He killed 49 people and injured 53 others. His victims were primarily gay Latino men; it was “Latin Night” at the gay club, Pulse. It is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, and it was targeted at the LGBT community.
The Orlando shooting is a terrible example of how far someone can go in their hatred of difference, and the people who represent that difference. Hatred of the not-me, of them, or their kind, is rooted in a worldview that says that what separates me and them, us and them, is a fundamental difference. On one side is good and right; on the other wrong and immoral. Differences are not signs of individuality. They are indications of where one stands on a moral issue.
The LGBT community has long been viewed as representatives of the “wrong.” The reasons vary from the religious to the aesthetic. Any couple beyond one man and one woman looks wrong to those who are on the other side of the issue.
This division of the world into acceptable and unacceptable is a painful one. It denies the truth that we are all different from one another, and that we are all alike in that difference. Everyone has parts that are vulnerable to being judged wrong or shameful. It is that shared vulnerability that draws us to each other, and create communities.
It is why attacks on any community makes victims out of all of us. Because if one group can be judged worthy of such terrible violence, then any group can be. We must remember that what makes us different from each other is what makes us unique, a distinct person.
In the wake of this tragedy in Orlando, people across the country have spoken out in support, have offered their prayers, and kept the LGBT community in their thoughts. Some of these people have opposed gay marriage or other issues that place them on the other side from the LGBT community. Their support at this time might be hypocrisy, or it might be that we are all united in our common experience as human beings.
Our hearts go out to the loved ones lost in the Orlando shooting and their families. Our hearts also go out to the LGBT community and anyone who has felt different – which is all of us.
By Toni Heineman