We still know very few details about the horrific, heartbreaking mass shooting in an Orlando gay club, Pulse, where 50 people have been killed and over 50 more were injured. Omar S. Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Florida, is reported to have entered the club and soon went on a shooting rampage. It’s not yet been confirmed as a hate crime, a terror attack or random shooting.
Whatever the case, a Pride month night of celebration and fun — the weekly Latin Night at the popular club, focused on Latin music, performances and dancing — turned into a morning of mass death and devastation. It happened in an area where LGBT people feel welcome and accepted. Orlando has a large and diverse LGBT community, one in which, like so many across the country, many LGBT people surely feel comfortable and safe.
But the brutal reality that jarred Orlando’s LGBT community, and the entire nation, is something that LGBT have always experienced, as gay and lesbian bars and clubs have been targeted in the past by those who harbor hate toward LGBT people. And it’s a reminder — whatever the motives — of the animus against us, and the ever present danger, with which we still live.
There have been scores of attacks on LGBT spaces, some of which received more attention than others. Eric Rudolf, also known as the Olympic Park Bomber because of his terror attack on the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta in 1996, also targeted lesbian bars, in addition to abortion clinics. In 1997, he targeted the Otherside Lounge, a lesbian bar in Atlanta, with two bombs, one of which detonated and injured five people. (The second bomb, found in a parking lot of the bar, was detonated by police without injury.) Rudolf, associated with the extremist Army of God, later pleaded guilty and said he was targeting homosexuality.
As recently as 2014, Musab Masmari was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for setting fire to a Seattle gay nightclub on New Year’s Eve in 2013. The assistant U.S. attorney reported that one of Masmari’s friends said Masmari confided in him that he “‘burned a gay club’ and that he did it because ‘what these people are doing is wrong.’” Another person close to Masmari reportedly said he had a “general hostility towards homosexuality.”
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 motived 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 if this turns out to be a terror attack or a 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. While we still know very little about this morning’s brutal massacre at Pulse in Orlando, this terrible tragedy is a reminder of the threat of violence against LGBT every day, and that we must always remain vigilant.
Reported by the huffingtonpost.com