What I want you to talk about when you talk about the Orlando shooting.

Last weekend, there was a shooting in a gay night club. I've felt this feeling before.

I remember this feeling.

I am 18, and I am at a stoplight. A pickup truck pulls up next to me in the turn lane. I glance; inside the truck are three or four guys, my high school classmates. It’s June. Their windows are down, they are listening to classic rock, and they are wearing undershirts in the heat. I know they’ve seen me, so I timidly wave hello.


Photo via iStock.

Did they wave back or did they laugh and call me a faggot? It doesn’t matter. The light turns green, and I go. The truck swerves out of the turn lane to go straight, and follows me closely. Here’s where I feel it.

My heart beats faster and faster and my knuckles are white on the steering wheel. If I drive home, they will know where I live, and if I drive to a friend’s house and that friend isn’t home, I’ll be alone with them — either way, I risk not even making it to the door. But if I keep driving, they could run me off the road. I have to stop, but I can’t find a safe place.

Finally, shaking, I decide on a gas station. And as I approach the parking lot, I glance in my rearview mirror: The truck turns away and disappears, as if none of this ever happened.

I grew up in Missouri, close to St. Louis, but far enough away that I could play Marco Polo in a wheat field.

When I came out of the closet, I knew of no other gay kids in my high school’s student body of 1,000. I was a senior then, and it was terrifying. Because when I was a freshman, I saw the story of Matthew Shepard’s torture and murder on the TV news. It happened to a kid like me in a town like mine, and I never forgot: It could happen to me too.

When I saw news of the massacre in Orlando, I could see that truck swerving in my rearview mirror again.

I imagine many queer people felt the same way.

The window of a gay bar in Brussels. Photo by Siska Gremmelprez for AFP/Getty Images.

For us, this is different from other all-too-frequent mass shootings, and it is not the same as other terror attacks. This attack was meant to remind queer people, specifically, that despite all of the progress of the last two decades, we can still be made to feel that we exist only at the mercy of others. It was designed to humiliate as much as it was to exterminate — to trick us into believing our breath is a luxury rather than a right.

Queer folks know better than to buy into this. Our diversity can be dizzying — we are intersections of trans, bi, lesbian, gay, gender-non-conforming, black, Latinx, white, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and so many other identities. But one thread ties all of us together: We know the importance of asserting our humanity. And despite all the risks, we’ll keep doing it.

Our elected officials might be tempted, as any of us might be, to treat this shooting as a gun rights issue alone or as an issue of terrorism or national security.

It is certainly those things: Calls for reforming gun policy, and calls for love instead of terror are valid. But this attack did not occur randomly; it was not aimed at the general public. It was aimed at queer people. And addressing it as though the identities of the victims are of tertiary importance — identities for which real people bled to death — is more than dishonest. It’s a new kind of erasure, a quieter kind of violence.

Flowers at a memorial in Seoul, South Korea. Photo by Chung Sung-Jun for Getty Images.

There are politicians who fight their hardest to steal the dignity of trans people, who fought against my right to marry, and who ignore the epidemic of homelessness among queer youth of color. Watch now as they pirouette gracefully: They will say an attack on gay Americans is an attack on all Americans. They will say this should strengthen our resolve to arm every schoolteacher. They will use it to justify pouring money and lives into the war on ISIS. It is our civic duty to hold them accountable for this hypocrisy.

If I sound angry, it’s because I am.

For my entire life, I have heard from public servants, faith leaders, and even some friends and family members that my existence is an inconvenience — or an abhorrence. Imagine it.

Now imagine real violence done to people who dare exist like me. And imagine it going unspoken or being used for political gain. Imagine what it would feel like to have someone who hates you suddenly force you to take their hand in fellowship.

A year ago this month, the U.S. Supreme Court guaranteed gay people the right to marry all across the country.

I celebrated with my fiancé. I saw rainbows everywhere, online and off. I was buoyed by the outpouring of love, pride, and positivity that followed.

I thought that — just maybe — that shaky 18-year-old, knuckles white on the steering wheel, had finally found the safety he deserved. Imagine being wrong about that.

You’d be angry too.

More
True
Modern Love

I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

Keep Reading Show less
Recommended
via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

Policing women's bodies — and by consequence their clothes — is nothing new to women across the globe. But this mother's "legging problem" is particularly ridiculous.

What someone wears, regardless of gender, is a personal choice. Sadly, many folks like Maryann White, mother of four sons, think women's attire — particularly women's leggings are a threat to men.

While sitting in mass at the University of Notre Dame, White was aghast by the spandex attire the young women in front of her were sporting.

Keep Reading Show less
More

Men are sharing examples of how they step up and step in when they see problematic behaviors in their peers, and people are here for it.

Twitter user "feminist next door" posed an inquiry to her followers, asking "good guys" to share times they saw misogyny or predatory behavior and did something about it. "What did you say," she asked. "What are your suggestions for the other other men in this situation?" She added a perfectly fitting hashtag: #NotCoolMan.

Not only did the good guys show up for the thread, but their stories show how men can interrupt situations when they see women being mistreated and help put a stop to it.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture