Monday, June 13, 2016

"This Is Erasure of LGBT People – Pure and Simple – After Their Community Was Horrifically Targeted": Media, GOP, and Religious Leaders (Including Pope Francis) Face Pushback for Erasing LGBTQ People from Orlando Story

Meditation Point One:

Yesterday when I awoke and began scrolling through the news at various sites I read daily, I immediately spotted reports that acts of unthinkable violence had occurred early that same day at "a nightclub" in Orlando. The nightclub was named: the Pulse. Some news reports included links to the website of "the nightclub."

I clicked on it, wanting more information about "the nightclub," and found the link didn't work. Perhaps so many people were doing the same thing I was doing that the website was down from too much traffic.

It was not until after I had read reports about the mass shooting at "a nightclub" in Orlando in venues like New York Times, CNN, Yahoo's newsfeed, etc., that I finally clicked at Logo's NewNowNext site and discovered that the atrocity had occurred at a gay nightclub in Orlando. All the mainstream news accounts I had read for the good part of an hour had erased LGBT human beings — their lives, their deaths — from their stories of what had happened in Orlando.

Even now, even after the Supreme Court's Obergefell ruling has legalized same-sex marriage, for many Americans including many mainstream media commentators, many political leaders, many people of faith, LGBTQ people remain what closeted, self-hating, anti-gay Roy Cohn cynically defined us to be in Tony Kushner's magnificent play Angels in America:

A homosexual is somebody who knows nobody and who nobody knows. Who has zero clout.

Many Americans, with the full complicity of the mainstream media and of people of faith, intend to keep "homosexuals" in that category of invisibility, of nothingness — even when we die in droves in an event like the Orlando massacre.

 Meditation Point Two:

Right now, I'm reading Garrard Conley's painful, moving account Boy Erased of growing up gay in Arkansas in the first decade of the 21st century in the household of a Missionary Baptist minister. Conley tells us that when he went off to college, he was enticed by another young man from a fundamentalist Christian household who invited him to church, and who then raped him.

Following the rape, this young man chose to out Conley to his parents and their small Arkansas community dominated by conservative white evangelical culture. Conley's parents' response was to seek to erase their son — to erase his gayness. His mother vomited when told that her son was gay. His father informed him that if he ever acted on his sexual orientation, he would be banned from the father's household and not acknowledged as his son.

The parents sent Conley to the "ex-gay" ministry program in Memphis, Love in Action, where the process of "erasing" his homosexuality — his personhood — could be accomplished with biblical tools. Since homosexuality, you see, simply does not exist . . . .

Not in conservative Christian culture . . . . There are no LGBTQ human beings. If fellow human beings inform us that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, it is our obligation, as good Christians, to inform them in return that we love them so much that we intend to see that they are erased in their human specificity, their human personhood.

Because a loving God does not make LGBTQ people and a loving God sends to hell those perverse enough to imagine that they are LGBTQ . . . .

I would like to suggest that these points deserve attention as we think about what has just taken place in Orlando. Here's some commentary from the past two days I want to point you to, which explains why I offer this suggestion:

In The Guardian, Owen Jones explains why he walked off the set of Sky News yesterday when an interviewer persistently refused to recognize or state that LGBTQ people were the object of the hateful acts in Orlando. Jones comments: 

[T]his was a deliberate attack on a LGBT venue and LGBT people. According to Omar Mateen's father, the reportedly Islamic State-supporting terrorist had expressed revulsion at the sight of two men kissing. His co-workers have described his anti-gay comments. Omar Mateen could have chosen many clubs, full of people laughing and living, but he chose a LGBT venue. This was homophobia as well as terrorism. It is not enough to simply condemn violence: we have to understand what it is and why it happened. 
It wasn't only Sky News at fault. In the New York Times' original reporting, it didn’t even point out that a gay club had been targeted. The Daily Mail didn’t bother to put the atrocity – the worst terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11 – on its front page, instead opting to stir up xenophobia over Turkish immigrants and publicising an offer of "free pearl and white sapphire earrings". This is erasure of LGBT people – pure and simple – after their community was horrifically targeted.

If there was one message in the massacre, it seemed to be that LBGT people are still not safe, and that religious teachings — or at least a narrow reading of them — may be a contributing factor to hatred against gays. 
Religious leaders from Pope Francis to the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations sharply condemned the shooting. 
The Vatican's spokesperson, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Pope Francis shares in the victims' "indescribable suffering" and "he entrusts them to the Lord so they may find comfort."  . . .  
But such words from religious groups provided cold comfort to many gay activists.

Why are the words of Pope Francis/the Vatican and of many other religious leaders cold comfort to LGBTQ people in the wake of the Orlando atrocity? The pope's/Vatican's statement speaks of "the victims." The Vatican cannot bring itself to utter the word "gay" or the phrase "LGBTQ" even when decrying the massacre of people in a gay nightclub who were targeted because they were gay.

The pope's/Vatican's condolences make those killed in this act of mass murder invisible. They erase the human specificity — the humanity itself — of those murdered. They do so because the Vatican (and Pope Francis) do not wish to open the door to any discussion of the complicity of the leaders of the Catholic church in acts of anti-LGBTQ violence around the world.

In response to a tweet by Father James Martin calling for prayers for those killed at Pulse nightclub and for an end to violence against LGBT people, Father Warren Hall, who was fired by Seton Hall University when he tweeted in support of LGBTQ rights, and who has come out of the closet as gay, tweets:

At his Queering the Church blog, Terry Weldon comments on the statement about the Orlando massacre released by Archbishop Kurtz, head of the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference:

This is obviously welcome, but studiously avoids the important point. This is not just an arbitrary massacre, but quite specifically a massacre of gay people, precisely because they are gay. 
By avoiding reference to the gay hatred element of this crime, the bishops are failing to keep to an important element of Catholic teaching on homosexuality. 

And then Terry goes on cites the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which explicitly condemns violence against people on grounds of sexual orientation.

Igor Volsky tweets:

Almost no national Republican lawmaker, as far as NCRM has found, could bring themselves to offer condolences to the LGBT community, which was the target of the nation's deadliest mass shooting and terror attack since 9/11.

There are many more examples of aggressively anti-gay politicians tweeting about the Pulse shooting, but one common thread ties them together: None of them mention that the shooting targeted, or even involved, the LGBTQ community. Indeed, not a single congressional Republican who tweeted about the shooting mentioned LGBTQ people. That stands in stark contrast to President Barack Obama’s clear assertion that "shooter targeted a nightclub" where "lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people" "came together to be with friends, to dance, sing, and live," and "to raise awareness and speak their minds and advocate for their civil rights." 
Republicans' silence is actually quite apt. As a party, after all, the GOP has spent decades attempting to degrade sexual minorities and even drive them out of public life. It is altogether fitting, then, that conservative politicians are erasing LGBTQ people from their own tragedy. The gesture of support, I suppose, is basically benevolent. But let's be clear about this: The 50 victims of Orlando's LGBTQ nightclub massacre died as full and equal citizens under the law in spite of the Republican party’s best efforts to relegate them to second-class citizenship.

Raw Story tweets, 

The media and politicians are in retreat from calling Omar Mateen's Pulse nightclub massacre an act of anti-LGBT hate. Especially in Pride month, this erasure must not happen. . . . 
Please, no more "thoughts and prayers," unless they come with a vocal recognition of this as an attack against LGBT people in an LGBT bar. 
Please, no more talk of the Pulse as a "nightclub" without the word "gay" or "LGBT" attached to it. 
Please, no more talk on this being an "attack on all of us" unless LGBT people are accorded the same rights as everyone else.

Michelangelo Signorile reminds us at Huffington Post that acts of anti-LGBT violence are not new and have, in fact, been proliferating following Obergefell — notably against transgender women and especially transgender women of color. And they're commonly fueled by religious bigotry egged on by communities of faith:

Hatred against LGBT people is clearly something we've lived with for decades, and even in these days of big victories we see a ferocious backlash playing out which is also motivated by bigotry. Many of us often take for granted the freedoms we've won, and certainly we don’t think twice about going out for a good time, dancing and enjoying ourselves — and we might not want to think about the dangers that still face LGBT people. And the American media, too, seems complacent; early on major news organizations reporting on this mass shooting, like The New York Times and CNN, weren't reporting the fact that Pulse is a gay club, or were downplaying that fact — a relevant fact, especially as this increasingly looks like a terror attack or hate crime. 
Hate crimes against LGBT people haven't dissipated since the arrival of marriage equality and have in fact been on the rise in recent years. What we've learned from his father about the Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen, is that he was recently repulsed  — became "very angry" — upon seeing two gay men kissing in Miami. Whatever his other beliefs or allegiances, that bedrock of homophobia is part of what drove him to carry out a brutal mass-shooting.

Betsy Woodruff points out at Daily Beast that it's not only religious leaders like Archbishop Kurtz and Pope Francis who have erased LGBTQ people from what happened in Orlando: Republican political leaders are doing this, too:

And, of course, Donald Trump ripped the president for not using the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" in his remarks a few hours after the shooting. But in the same statement where Trump levelled that criticism, he neglected to mention that the attack happened at a gay club and targeted LGBT people. 
Trump and his allies will talk about radical Islamic terror all day every day—but a "gay nightclub"? Not so much.

Trump proved he's in the mainstream of the Republican Party, as GOP leaders lamented the massacre without mentioning gays or guns. . . . Its a hate crime. 
I feel like I've written this piece before: another place of inclusion is invaded by a violent hater, and innocent people are dead. I wrote it when a Jewish Community Center was shot up by a white supremacist, I wrote it again almost exactly a year ago when a white supremacist shot up a black church, I'm writing it now as a homophobe who may have been an Islamic extremist shot up a gay bar. I sent my daughter to a Jewish Community Center preschool; I've been welcomed at black churches my whole life; I went to gay bars in high school and college. As a straight white Catholic woman, I've been given so much privilege and comfort in spaces that aren't "mine."

Our misdiagnosis of terrorism and violence occurs when it is rooted in the popular, but heretical notion that some people don't matter as much as others. The greatest terrorist attacks in history have American fingerprints on them. The Middle Passage. The enslavement of millions of black human beings for 250 years. Legalized Jim Crow, lynching, and dozens of terrorist pogroms (which have usually been called race riots), that killed thousands of black people from Wilmington to Tulsa to Springfield, Illinois. The bombing and burning of black churches. The political assassinations of Martin, Malcolm, Medgar, Viola Liuzzo, James Reeb, Harriet Moore, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And let us not forget how America supported the long night of terror called apartheid, modeled after our southern Jim Crow system. Massive civil disobedience and protests and deaths were necessary to bring this terror to a halt. It was an embarrassment on the world stage.

Pam Spaulding tells her Facebook followers,

Here's Charles Pierce at Esquire this morning: as he points out, the Orlando atrocities were one of two planned acts of violence against the LGBTQ community in the U.S. during Pride celebrations yesterday — the one of two that succeeded. A man headed to West Hollywood's Pride celebration with a car full of weapons was apprehended yesterday.

And then he writes, 

So before we start talking about banning anyone from a Muslim country, or even before we wring our hands again about how easy it is to get your hands on an AR-15, a weapon that is built for, and exists only, to kill people in this country, we should all accept that, for all the advancements that have been made in ensuring equal rights for our fellow citizens who are gay, there is still a kind of virulent hate that we can see in its more polite forms in our legislatures and some of our courtrooms, and now we can see it in its most raw and unreconstructed form in our nightclubs. 
The events in Orlando do nothing more than demolish our most treasured illusions about ourselves and our country and—most trivially—our politics. How many of the congresscritters now sending "thoughts and prayers" to the victims in Orlando, and to their families, spent a lot of time in their day jobs making the everyday lives of those victims more miserable than they had to be? There's still an audience for clean-shaven, well-tailored bigotry of all faiths.

And, finally, Matthew Vines and Igor Volsky tweet: 

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