How do I know this weekend's shooting massacre in Orlando was an anti-gay hate crime?
Because 49 LGBT people are dead. Because they were targeted in an LGBT nightclub. Because every LGBT person in the country can feel the threat and implications of this attack in the pit of their stomachs the way they were intended to.
Yes it was terrorism, but it was terrorism motivated by homophobia. That point is essential to grasp.
There were two attackers. One successfully carried out his plan in Orlando and the other was foiled in Los Angeles. One was Muslim and the other was Christian, both were born here, both were American citizens, neither of them knew of each other, neither was particularly religious, both of them said they wanted to harm gay people and one of them succeeded.
It was nauseating to watch opportunistic craw thumpers like Donald Trump, no friend to the gay community, rush to Twitter and to the national press to congratulate himself on being right about the threat of Islamic fundamentalism.
Doing a victory lap before the victims had been named or their loved ones even informed of their passing shows you just how self-regarding his blowhard candidacy really is.
I thought I could not loathe Trump or what he represents more than I already did until I saw him Tweeting out congratulations to himself within hours of the attack. 49 young people were dead, but for Trump the real story was that he was right to stop Muslims from coming to the country.
Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2016
But the truth is the shooter, like Trump himself, was born in Queens, and the other captured shooter was born in Indiana. Trump’s hucksterism, given these facts, was unspeakable.
On Sunday morning as Trump was making his repulsive victory laps I was fielding multiple phone calls from my horrified gay friends, many in floods of tears on the phone, crying for people they didn't know but being gay could easily identify with, because every gay person shares some formative experiences in common, including knowing what it means to be threatened for who they are.
What really froze my blood was the thought of being a mother or father or lover or friend on the other side of a flickering cell phone screen when that assault rifle attack was occurring.
Knowing that you're utterly powerless to help them. Knowing that someone you love is being ruthlessly hunted by a man with an assault rifle. Knowing how fixed the fight is, how one-sided, how cell phones and pleas for mercy are no match for high powered rifles and homophobic hatred.
The Orlando shooter was not a lone wolf, no matter what the news reports say. Neither was the man who planned to attack the Gay Pride Parade in Los Angeles. They belonged – they actually volunteered to belong – to a much larger, longstanding international prejudice that crosses every border and creed, one that emboldened and approved of their actions.
Homophobia isn't unique to the Arab world. It's true that ISIS regularly throws gay men as young as 15 from tall buildings to their death, but we shouldn't pat ourselves on the back too enthusiastically, because violent hate crimes against gay people in the United States were up again last year, with over half of the victims failing to even report them to the police.
Two hundred anti-gay bills have been proposed by lawmakers in the United States in the last six months. Not five or ten or even 15 bills - 200. Each one of those bills says that gay people are less deserving of the same rights that everyone else takes for granted. That message is endorsed most of all by the people who hate us and want to harm us.
If the law says we are less than and society says we are less than, what's to stop anyone with a bias from attacking us? Which bathrooms will transgender people be allowed to hide in during the next anti-gay assault rifle shooting, I wonder?
Hate crimes against trans people rose 32 percent last year. No doubt the lawmakers crafting the so-called bathroom bills that make trans people look like drooling predators (despite there having never been a single case of a trans woman molesting a young girl in a bathroom in the history of this country) will insist there is no connection between the terrifying narrative they are crafting and the fact that many people clearly feel free to threaten or assault them for dire threats they do not actually pose.
Here's a thing you might not know. When you're gay you learn early on how to read every room, street and city that you walk into. You grow a sort of antennae that scan every situation you enter for the merest hint of a threat. It's a survival skill; you have it because you'll need it.
You learn to see flying fists coming before anyone else does and you can feel a room darken before an attack. Straight women have a similar – though not quite the same – skill set. We are all of us forced to live under the unforgiving rule of men, after all.
Because I developed this survival skill set as a teenager I know that most of the people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando shared it too. I know that they knew pretty quickly what was coming for them, even over all the loud music and flashing lights. I know that they knew because I've seen some of their frantic text messages in the news reports. “He's coming for me. I'm going to die,” one read, unforgettably.
Some news reports are now suggesting that the Orlando shooter, although twice divorced with one child, visited the Pulse gay bar that he later attacked on multiple occasions. Reports claim he maintained profiles on gay social apps like Grindr and Adam4Adam. The California would-be killer was said to gay too.
Some have suggested that these were simply monitoring accounts, set up for the sole purpose of stalking his intended victims. Others are suggesting he was a bipolar, or a conflicted closet case, or someone whose religious background and openly homophobic father made it impossible for him to live an authentic life.
Whether he was inspired by radical Islamism, or homophobia, or mental illness, or all three, the real problem is this unbalanced shooter on an FBI terrorist watch list had no problem walking into a store and buying a semi-automatic rifle. Without an AR-15 he would just have been another disgruntled schmuck at a bar.
So more guns doesn't mean more safety, it means more chances of being shot by guns. There was at least one reported guard on duty at the Pulse nightclub. She was shot dead. Police then got into a live standoff with the shooter and multiple shots were fired on both sides. Guns didn't fix the problem, they simply inflamed it.
Meanwhile, I don't know who the shooter is and I don't care. I have pointedly not printed his name. He doesn't deserve to to mentioned in the same breath as his victims. Those 49 people are more than just a list of names. They are people who loved and who were loved.
Their loved ones have just had their lives destroyed over insane American gun laws that sell weapons of mass destruction to anyone with a few hundred dollars in their hand.
Homophobia has always been with us. But thanks to the GOP senators who voted to permit people on FBI watch lists to buy assault weapons – and thanks to the National Rifle Association which represents the gun manufacturers and not the gun owners – that anti-gay toxic prejudice has now found a way to become weapons grade, with a body count unprecedented in American history.
The Irish comedy writer Graham Linehan Tweeted yesterday, “I hope the gay agenda now is 'take down the NRA' because they could do it.” He's right about that. Gay people are not fooled about who really facilitated the lethal carnage at the weekend.
I hope the gay agenda becomes "take down the NRA" because they could do it https://t.co/LI4FTUC31n— Graham Linehan (@Glinner) June 13, 2016
That means we must confront the political leaders and the out of control gun lobby now. We have already waited too long to smack them down. America has no place for this insane carnage. None. Shame. Back you go. It's time.
Unlike every other social group in the USA, LGBT people are literally everywhere. In the Army, the Navy, the White House and the Pentagon. We're in the churches, the state capitols and all the press. We're Republicans and Democrats and Independents. Our diversity is what makes us such formidable opponents.
And what will make us utterly relentless now in pursuit of an assault weapons ban is that we know, thanks to our politicians and the NRA, that our very lives depend on it.