I’ve been struggling to find the words to describe how I feel after Sunday’s tragedy in Orlando, Florida.
Individuals within the LGBT community face challenges every day of our lives. We fear for our safety if we want to hold the hand of the person we love in public.
We constantly worry about whether we are safe enough to come out to our friends, our co-workers and our families. We always wonder if someone or a group of people will surround us and beat us simply for walking, breathing and existing in our own country.
Being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in America is exhausting. It is alienating. It is lonely. It is full of hardship. It’s not a glamorous dance party by any means, especially when LGBT people are routinely attacked and stigmatized every day.
The culture of violence against the LGBT community extends far beyond the actions of one man with a gun at a nightclub. It permeates many aspects of our society.
From politicians calling on transgender people to use separate bathrooms, to religious leaders preaching anti-gay messages instead of love and compassion, to someone on your Facebook feed sharing videos making fun of gay people.
These are all acts of violence because they reduce the LGBT community to a joke, a punching bag or both.
We’re not visible as human beings. We’re viewed as being sub-human, because we are different.
Time and time again, the LGBT community has faced enormous difficulties because of this culture.
Our community has endured the worst of the AIDS crisis, laws criminalizing homosexuality and constitutional bans against same-sex marriage.
When one faces this reality, it makes one wonder: “Is it even worth it to be who I am? To be me in this world?”
The answer is yes, of course, it’s worth it to be who you are. Though there will be people who threaten our community, they can’t deny that we exist.
We are Americans who contribute to the diversity of life that enriches and enhances us all. We are, simply, people. We’re people.
It can be difficult, but it’s when we talk to people who are different from us that we learn and grow and reach our highest potential.
Even though our community has been attacked repeatedly during our history, we have survived. We have persevered.
We have continued living, despite the continued threats, despite the judgmental looks and despite the intolerance we experience.
Through it all, we’ve earned a sense of pride about being who we are.
And that’s something the Orlando shooter can never take away from us.
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