CN: Discussion of the attack at Pulse in Orlando, violence and mass murder, hate speech, gun issues, politics, queerphobia, transphobia, racism. Brief mentions of domestic violence, sexual assault, suicide.
A personal note: I’m actually a bit too heartbroken right now to reasonably express my emotions about this situation. I sometimes go a little cerebral in the face of tragedy. If this post about causes and solutions is badly timed for you because it is so soon, that is completely legitimate and I encourage you to read it later.
24 hours after the horrific mass murder in Orlando Florida yesterday my news feeds and social media feeds are a mix of sorrow, fear, and arguments over the causes of and solutions to this kind of horrific event. My friends, along with the rest of the internet, are discussing (with various levels of anger) causes and solutions, and often bitterly disagree about what those might be.
I submit this: It is possible for an event to have many causes, and for all of those causes to be real contributing factors. It is possible to work for multiple solutions to violence and for many or all of those solutions to be good and important causes.
I believe that homophobia and queerphobia in American culture and politics contributed to this mass murder. I believe that because I see violent and hateful rhetoric put forward by political and media figures every day. I hear slurs against my people thrown about by customers in my workplace and people on the street. I read incredibly hateful messages against queer people online constantly, including those that make very clear how many of my fellow Americans want queer people dead.
I believe that homophobia in Muslim communities contributed to this mass murder. I believe this because my Muslim and ex-Muslim friends and loved ones have told me about the homophobia they have experienced in those communities. They have said clearly that they do not want this homophobia erased in this conversation and that they believe that the rhetoric in Muslim communities contributes to violence. I believe them.
I believe that extremism fueled by religious intolerance contributed to this mass murder. I believe that because the perpetrator apparently said so himself. I’m certain that the media will focus on this aspect as a primary cause and that we will learn more in the coming days about his religious beliefs and messages. Some media outlets and politicians will pretend that this is the whole story, and they are wrong, but I will not pretend it is not part of the story.
I believe that toxic masculinity contributed to this mass murder. An important part of toxic ideas of manhood is the idea that violence is an appropriate solution to one’s problems. We know that this killer had a history of spousal abuse and violent rhetoric consistent with toxic masculinity. The idea that picking up a weapon makes one more of a man is a deeply held tenant of patriarchy, and one that I believe contributes to the culture of mass shootings in America and this one in particular.
I believe that the easy availability of guns, and especially extremely deadly assault weapons, contributed to this mass murder. While guns do not create a desire to kill, they make the process much easier. Guns like the AR-15 used in this case are especially effective at killing and injuring many people shockingly quickly. In fact, they are created to do just that. That they are so easy to acquire contributes to the frequency and death rates in this and other similar cases.
It is likely also true that transphobia, transmisogyny, and racism contributed to this mass murder. Pulse is not just a gay bar, but one frequented by the Latin community and was full of people of color on Saturday night. It was not just a gay bar, but also one that featured trans and drag performers. While all queer people are at an increased risk of being victims of violence, queer people of color, trans people, and especially trans women of color are at much higher risk. I cannot ignore the possibility that this club was at higher risk because of these issues. Racism and transphobia are real causes of violence and must be seen as part of this picture.
The causes of violence in general, and this attack in particular, are multifaceted. I believe the solutions are too. A major part of the arguments I have seen today have been over what is “the right way” to prevent things like this in the future. I do not believe there is “a right way” but instead that many struggles can lead towards a future with less violence.
It is crucial that we fight queerphobia in all of its forms from all of its sources. We must fight against oppression in politics, in all religious communities, and in culture. Decreasing hatred of LGBTQIA people decreases our risk of violence. Pretending that queerphobia comes from only one community (Christian churches for example) isn’t helpful, since the sources of queerphobia are legion. When we call out homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia we are working against violence.
It is crucial that we fight toxic masculinity in all of its forms. The idea that the path to strength is through violence creates enormous harm, and we must work against it and against all patriarchy. When we speak out against domestic violence and rape we are working against the kind of pressures that contribute to mass shootings in general and this one in particular. When we fight the patriarchy we are working against violence.
It is crucial that we work for gun control. The current situation of easy access to highly deadly weapons is not working. It puts everyone at risk, through public violence, through tragic but preventable accidents, and through increased risk of suicide by people with easy access to firearms. There is no reason why someone should be able to easily purchase an AR-15. When we work towards legal changes in gun regulations we are working against violence.
It is crucial that we work against Islamophobia. After cases like this the violence and threats of violence Muslim and perceived-to-be-Muslim people experience in America increase noticeably. My Muslim and ex-Muslim friends fear reprisals against themselves and their families from angry people who seek to respond to violence with more violence, often targeted at completely unrelated people. Worse, political and media figures feed this fear and anger by equating Islam with terrorism and talking about things like banning Muslims from coming into the United States. When we fight this rhetoric we are working against violence.
When we work to combat racism, transmisogyny, ableism, and oppression in all of its forms we are working against violence. When we reach out to care for our grieving and frightened friends and loved ones we are working against violence. When we find better, healthier ways to deal with conflict we are working against violence. When we work to heal communities and individuals we are working against violence.
There are many ways to work to prevent the next mass shooting and the next hate crime. I have not covered them all here, not even close. As communities of people who wish to see a world without violence we must work towards all of these goals and more. As individuals we will work on those issues that we are best suited to, or most driven to work on. This is as it should be. Arguing over which is “the right way” to work against violence isn’t helpful. Instead, let’s do the work.