This post is a guest contribution by Audrey Zee Whitesides.
The following is a Facebook post I made in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, which was shared around 1,100-1,500 times (to the best of my knowledge). My account was then temporarily banned and the post removed. I am speaking as a white trans and queer woman, and am including the original, unedited post because I am uncomfortable with the fact that I was silenced for it, and would like to preserve my words:
“because it’s inevitable that the shooting in Orlando will be blamed on Islamic terrorism, and used to provoke Islamophobia:
let’s remember that right-wing white Christian extremists have been condoning and advocating violence against LGBTQ+ folks in the US forever. let’s remember all the white Christians who, in the past months, have been threatening to assault or murder trans women who use women’s restrooms.let’s remember you can legally murder an LGBTQ+ person in the USA by a gay/trans panic defense.
the only reason white Christians don’t do things like this every goddamn day is because they have power in this country to criminalize us and the legal support for bigotry and discrimination. I guarantee you that all over the US, white Christians are waking up and reading this news and thinking, ‘about time those faggots got what’s coming.’ and even more ‘tolerant’ white Christians are thinking, ‘well, I wouldn’t want anyone to die, but it’s their fault for going out in public and showing off their lifestyles in our faces.’
don’t forget the people who have painted a target on our backs for goddamn decades and try to just blame another religion for its extremists.”
I was in bed with my girlfriend this morning when I saw the first reports. At the time, it was just reported as 20 dead and 42 wounded at a gay nightclub—on a Latin@ night, though initial articles mentioned this briefly at best. Those estimates would quickly rise to 50 dead and 53 wounded (and I expect the death toll to rise at least slightly as more news from hospitals comes in).
I hurt. I could only stop crying to read more articles, and as I did, a pretty disturbing and familiar trend started emerging—law enforcement was investigating the possibility that Islamic extremism was involved. It came out that the shooter was of Afghan descent. His name, Omar Mateen, was the kind of name Fox News would seize upon to whip up outrage among its xenophobic followers.
Never mind that Mateen’s father apologized for his son’s actions and said that Mateen had become enraged recently after seeing two men kissing in public. Mateen didn’t want his son to see open queerness like that. My own brother—who is white and was raised Catholic like me—told me before we more or less ended our communication years ago that he would never let any of his future children have contact with me. He certainly didn’t get his views from radical Islam.
I made the post. Dan Patrick, lieutenant governor of Texas, proved me right immediately when he tweeted a Bible verse reading, “God cannot be mocked / A man reaps what he sows.”
Us LGBTQ+ folks have a responsibility right now to Muslims in the US and abroad, even as we grieve. We cannot allow ourselves to be used as an excuse to persecute Islam and its followers. Already, conservative politicians are lining up to express their concern for us and our safety. Mike Huckabee, who has referred to homosexuality as “an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle” and called for government quarantine of people with HIV/AIDS, would like us all to know he’s praying for our loss now. Donald Trump is currently patting himself on the back for hating Muslims before this shooting even happened. Trump seems to be conveniently ignoring the fact that the shootings occurred on a Latin@ night at Pulse, and thus certainly some of the victims of color were themselves immigrants or children of immigrants. He would deny their right to live in the US with one breath and then try to claim sorrow for their deaths in the next.
We queers have to use our voices to resist this, to make it clear we will not let our identities be taken by bigots to once again incite fear and violence against Muslims. There is real oppression in the US that queer & trans people face on a daily basis, and that cannot be swept under the rug because of the actions of a person of Afghan descent who was raised in the US and inherited all its societal homo/transphobia.
#notallwhiteChristians—because I actually do want y’all who are both white Christians and opposed to Islamophobia to step up and denounce your bigoted counterparts. But the people who have been working for decades to take away my rights and the rights of people like me are white Christians, and they will only continue their efforts while hiding behind a smokescreen of public backlash against Muslims. It is inescapably true that white conservative Christians have no shortage of power in the US, and use that power to attack LGBTQ+ folks, Muslims, women, working/lower-class people, and basically anyone else who is an Other to them. The fact that Facebook deemed the feelings of the white Christians I offended as more important than my voice as a queer and trans person only proves the power that neocon white Christians hold over who is allowed to speak, and how.
The Pulse is a club which was founded by a woman whose brother died in the AIDS crisis, during its plague years. The club’s name refers to his actual heartbeat, which his sister wanted to preserve after his death. Among other things to remember today—the AIDS crisis was when it finally became violently clear how much LGBTQ+ people are hated in this country, but it was also when we proved we could come together in resistance and anger, and fight back against those who wanted us dead and gone. We may be less on the margins of society today than we were then, but we cannot let the right-wing white Christians use us to provoke hate against other marginalized people. Don’t ever forget the target painted on our backs, but don’t help them paint that target on Muslims, too.
Art by Rilo Harris.