Where are we on the road?

June 15, 2016

What can the murders in Orlando tell us about our struggle, asks Amanda Achin?

LAST SATURDAY, I had a really touching subway ride. Surrounded by so many queer couples, groups of friends, and families heading to the Pride parade in Boston, I spent an hour on the train reflecting on how far we have come in the struggle for LGBTQ equality.

I thought about how much gay marriage has meant for so many of us in the past year, the fact that more than 50 percent of young people now feel confident to identity as not straight, the little things like how I have been seeing more LGBTQ couples holding hands in public lately--and the memory of being at my mother's wedding last summer where I was able celebrate the love of two of my favorite people along with my entire family, who were incredibly supportive.

I thought about all the stories from fellow activists organizing protests for LGBTQ equality and how we wouldn't be here today without all that painstaking work. I got quite emotional on the train watching all these beautiful families--families that looked like mine and groups of young people who were completely confident and proud to be celebrating their sexuality.

Honoring the victims at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando
Honoring the victims at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando (Fibonacci Blue)

I couldn't help but dream of a world where this existed all the time, everywhere--a world without homophobia.

When I woke up on Sunday morning, my reflections and dreams from the day before were immediately confronted by reality. Forty-nine dead.

YOU CANNOT hear this news and not search for answers. How could someone do this? What was going through his mind? What kind of person was he? So far, the politicians and mainstream media have had the loudest voices in offering an explanation, and their answers are not only wrong, but are a cynical manipulation of the facts.

This tragedy is absolutely not a product of Islam.

This tragedy is the product of a society that is run by the biggest purveyor of violence in the world--the U.S. government, a government responsible for the bombing of millions people around the world, a government that maintains a police force responsible for the murder of over 1,000 people annually, a government that also happens to have quite a long record of oppressing LGBTQ people.

Whether it's leaving a vast number of LGBTQ youth to survive on the streets on their own or the complete inaction to address the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, which resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of LGBTQ people or the ongoing police violence that disproportionately affects LGBTQ folks of color, the only times our government has stood for LGBTQ equality have been when they were forced to by social movements.

Violence and homophobia are built into the system, giving a green light to bigots like the Orlando shooter.

The reflections from my subway ride remain important. We have come a long way. And I truly believe that my dream of a society without homophobia is possible. But boy, do we have a way to go.

Not only do we need to continue the fight for LGBTQ liberation, but we also must take a hard stand against Islamophobia. We need to unite with our Arab and Muslim brothers and sisters to build a movement loud enough to drown out the current voices that are exploiting tragedy for more hate.

Hate crimes against Arab and Muslims are on the rise. The story being spewed by politicians and media pundits to explain the tragedy in Orlando is very dangerous and will only lead to more of this terrifying violence.

We need fight against every instance of oppression in the here and now--but, goddamn, do we ever need to get rid of this entire system and fight for a completely new world.

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