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Friday, June 24, 2016

Thoughts, Prayers & Silence

Written by  Bill Redmond-Palmer

Now what?

In recent days, the queer community has been battered from all sides, following the shocking and tragic massacre of so many innocents in Orlando, shattering lives, families, and a community. We were reminded in stark terms that the battle to defeat the hate that drives homophobia and transphobia is far from over. While we may have won some important battles, the war is far from won.

The attack also reminded how much internalized hate, homophobia, and transphobia can damage queer people, to the point where they lash out at those very people from whom they should be seeking love and affirmation.

We were reminded that in many places in the U.S., it is far easier (and less expensive!) to buy a semi-automatic assault weapon, designed for the sole purpose of killing humans, than it is to see an award winning play on Broadway! The creator of the AR-15 has in fact publicly stated that the sole purpose of that weapon was and is for the shooter to kill other people.

Since June 12, we have heard from many people offering their thoughts and prayers to the people of Orlando. Fortunately, many were specifically targeted to the LGBTQ and Latin communities most impacted by the shooter’s rampage. Unfortunately, far too many were mere platitudes, spoken more to keep up appearances than out of sincerity. Similarly, there were many “moments of silence” – some genuinely felt – others barely little more than symbolic.

Even worse, are those who, like the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who have used the queer community to further a nationalist agenda driven by hate, all the while feigning support and belittling those who have actual experience supporting queer people and improving their lives. I listened to the speech he gave the day after the event. I felt dirty, like I needed a shower and a good delousing, after being used in such a foul way, for such a hateful purpose.

We have been inundated with thoughts from all sides. Thinking of others is important, but does little to change the world.

We have heard many prayers. Those who know me know I am an unabashed person of faith, and a believer in the power of prayer. I also believe however, that the Creator demands that we take action to repair the world. In the words of the Christian Bible, James 2:17: “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

We’ve had our fill of moments of silence. Silence is powerful, but to indulge in silence, as so often happens after great tragedies, will only bring us more suffering and hate.

It is time to move past all of those. Once #WeAreOrlando fades from the headlines and your social media feeds, me must fight the temptation to go back to the safety and comfort of complacency. While we can and should continue to grieve for the losses of so many, it’s time to begin to rebuild and plan for how we will move forward to fight the hate that still lurks in so many places.

You can make a difference. In the immortal words of Margaret Mead, “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

If you aren’t registered to vote, do it today. Voting is more important than ever.

Encourage our political leaders to implement common sense gun legislation like universal background checks; restricting military style weapons to military use; and removing the ban on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other Federal agencies on researching the impact of guns on the health and welfare of the U.S.

Support your local queer community organizations, who are working to fight hate and discrimination, and create a better world for us. Donate money if you can. Volunteer whenever you are able. Encourage public officials to support and not undermine our community and our organizations.

Finally, the most powerful thing you can do, is to fully live your authentic self. When you come out to those around you who you know and love, and who know and love you, you take a risk. The payoff is that when they realize that you are still the same person, just now more honest about yourself, their hearts and minds change toward all queer people.

When facing the kind of challenges that face us today, I urge you to take the sage advice of Paul Monette, a gay writer in the 1980s and 1990s, who, prior to his death from HIV/AIDS, wrote the following in his book Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir. “Tell yourself: None of this ever had to happen. And then go make it stop, whatever breath you have left. Grief is a sword, or it is nothing.”

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