National Commentary

The Orlando Massacre, Part 2

nfbenton-mugIn the wake of the Orlando massacre of 49 people (so far) in the early hours of June 12. parameters of the hopes and cautions of the imperfect movement for human liberation on this planet are drawn in stark relief.

On the one hand, images of the Pulse nightclub in the period leading up to the heinous attack show the world a kind, fun-loving people at play. On the other hand, the sheer horror of what broke out and carried on for hours functions as a sobering reality that white-hot hate still courses through the veins of way too many.

In subsequent reports, FBI data shows that hate crimes are now targeting LGBT and perceived LGBT people at a higher rate than any other social group. In 2005, Jewish people were the Number One targets, in 2014 it was LGBT people, at twice the rate, for example, as African-Americans, which is not to minimize crimes targeting any group. The data shows the vast majority of hate crimes (5,462 reported in 2014) are not reported, at all. As evidence, only one hate crime was reported in all Mississippi in 2014.

David Holmes writes in Esquire about “What It Costs to Be Gay in Public,” and Gabe Ortiz writes in the Washington Post that “In America, Being Gay is Still a Radical Act,” as “LGBT people take a risk just being who they are.” These are reports that almost any open LGBT person can acknowledge from personal experience.

Simple things like drive-by taunts or finding “fag” scrawled on a dirty windshield are reminders of how, by extension, hate can escalate to violence.

It is not by demanding more law enforcement, or by taking up arms, that this reality can be redressed. Yes, it is heartening that a lot of the LGBT “establishment” is taking up the cause of gun control as one step. But there’s more.

In my view, as the core message in my book, Extraordinary Hearts (Lethe Press, 2013), LGBT people must come to appreciate better how their mere existence poses a threat in a male-dominated society where “heterosexual males are defined in terms of dominion over women and military enemies.”

Ultimately, I wrote, “The only way for homosexuals to be freed from this oppression is for their influence to be felt in society, along with women and other oppressed groups, so strongly that the paradigm of male domination is overthrown in the culture once and for all.”

LGBT people represent a threat to a male-dominated world view, “because to the extent it is the natural inclination of homosexuals to manifest thirst for justice and to affirm the essential humanity of all, they tend to side with the oppressed, including women, orphans and the downtrodden, those whose exploitation males in male domination cultures feed upon to buoy their social roles” (quotes from Chapter 29).

Yes, gays and lesbians represent an inherent threat to the identities of macho males and their subordinates, and for good reasons.

The late gay author Paul Monette, writing in an essay On Becoming (1990), wrote, “It has been my experience that gay and lesbian people who have fought through their self-hatred and their self-recriminations have a capacity for empathy that is glorious and a capacity to find laughter in things that is like praising God. There is a kind of flagrant joy about us that goes very deep and is not available to most people.”

Undoubtedly, a lot of that “flagrant joy” was being manifested at that nightclub until that terrible mass murderer struck.

The late gay author E. M. Forester spoke of LGBT people in coded words on the eve of World War II way back when being “open” was not an option.

In an anti-war tract entitled “What I Believe” (1939), he wrote of “an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky…found in all nations and classes and through all the ages. They represent the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos.”

A big part of the challenge for LGBT people is to truly appreciate who they are in this sense.

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