We are given hope by the many people who have responded to the shooting, and its aftermath, by building consensus against all forms of hate and intolerance. For example: The day after the attack, more than 50 LGBTQ advocacy groups appealed for their communities to reject the Islamophobic rhetoric that they knew would follow because the killer was Muslim. At the same time, mainstream Muslim groups have been calling for an end to homophobia and transphobia.
These voices for tolerance and pluralism are not getting as much media attention as we think they should, in comparison to more divisive narratives. So we would like to pass along the inspiring and hopeful words of at least a few of them:
From survivor Alejandro A. Francisco (who left the building just minutes before the attack), in an open letter to the killer:
“Omar, you failed. You tried to massacre the very one thing that you can never destroy in our community. Ever. You cannot take away our love. It is more powerful than anything else that exists in the world. …
“Violence had long been part of my life. Ever since fifth grade, I have been made fun of and called a faggot and had to fight for dignity and pride all my life. But in that moment when I came out to my mom… She gave me a look that told me she would love me forever… She saw me with the healing, transformative eyes of love.
“I am so sorry you must not have ever had that in your life. Otherwise, I can’t imagine you would have wanted so badly to end mine.”
Full letter: http://www.xojane.com/issues/alejandro-francisco-orlando-pulse-survivor-story
From Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations:
“For years, the LGBTQIA community stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Muslim community as we have faced hate crimes, bigotry, marginalization and discrimination. Today, we stand firmly and resolutely to declare that this support goes both ways; that we are there for all communities who are the victims of violence and persecution in our country.
“The liberation of the American Muslim community is inextricably linked with the liberation of all minority groups—Black, Latino, Gay, Jewish, Trans and every other community that has faced discrimination and oppression in this country. We cannot fight injustice against some groups, and not against others.”
Full text: http://time.com/4367554/muslim-leader-on-orlando-shooting
From the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity:
“It is not lost on us that this horrific tragedy occurred during LGBTQ Pride month, which this year coincides with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, typically a period of peace and intense self-reflection. It pains us to see that these periods of joy, celebration, and peace have been marred so violently with such horror... This tragedy cannot be neatly categorized as a fight between the LGBTQ community and the Muslim community. As LGBTQ Muslims, we know that there are many of us who are living at the intersections of LGBTQ identities and Islam.”
Full text: http://www.muslimalliance.org/masgd-speaks/87-response-to-shooting-in-orlando
From Stuart Milk (President of the Harvey Milk Foundation):
“To turn one of the darkest days that the LGBT movement has in modern history and to try to make that into a case to discriminate against another culture, a culture that’s a minority in this society, is simply unacceptable. And I can tell you that the LGBT community and the LGBT leadership, not only in the United States, but around the world, we are not going to allow that to happen.”
Full interview: http://www.democracynow.org/2016/6/14/nephew_of_slain_gay_icon_harvey
Through our work, we have come to understand that when people of diverse identities are respected and safe, this forms the foundation of mutual security for everyone. People within a peaceful society are not subject to systemic violence and discrimination on the basis of their identity. Homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexism, and religious intolerance are ways of thinking that foster violence.
We are aware there are many motives and factors that may have influenced the killer, aside from transphobia and homophobia. We've read that he professed allegiance to ISIS and other violent extremists—and that he had a history of gender-based violence. But there is no easy answer to the question, “why?”
With the massacre in Orlando, a safe space for celebrating pluralism was violated. It will take time and work to repair this wound. We are so grateful that the people and organizations quoted above, together with so many more of you, are leading a way forward that will create better security, safety, and belonging—peace—for us all.