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Orlando Reflections, Two Weeks Later

June 25, 2016 Community, Opinion No Comments
True Colors & American Muslim Peace Initiative vigil True Colors via twitter

True Colors & American Muslim Peace Initiative vigil
True Colors via twitter

By Jane Latus

Canton, CT – June 25, 2016

Yesterday the President named the Stonewall Inn a National Monument. Tomorrow is NYC’s big annual Pride March. But two weeks ago, I went to the vigil at the Capitol in Hartford to mourn those killed in the Orlando massacre – and left realizing we are all victims.

“Being gay is so passé.”

So wrote my now-23-year-old son Ian on his Facebook page a couple of years back.

It made me laugh, although I knew there was a lot more to that seemingly flip statement.

It was to a great extent accurate:  how the world has changed in just a generation. Ian hasn’t felt he has to hide who he is – unlike my older gay brother, whose life was disproportionally impacted by just this one aspect of his identity.

I liked its optimism, its sense of celebratory glee.

But of course I knew it isn’t quite true.

And if it ever crossed your mind to wonder about the risk of being gay in the U.S. today, mid-backlash against recent LGBTQ civil rights gains, contemplate being someone else in that letter group – for instance, the “T.”

Which brings me to my other son, Elliott, 25, who is transgender and lives – of all places – in North Carolina. Be assured that being transgender is not remotely passé.  (I wrote about him here.)

In learning how to better support Elliott, I am fortunate to have gotten to know numerous transgender men, women and kids whose bravery and self-awareness is staggering.

If they haven’t been beaten or bullied (for just being themselves, remember) or contemplated or attempted suicide, it is probably because they’re lucky enough to have their families’ support and to be coming out now, a time of greater awareness than even the not-so-distant past.

What really puts a transgender American at risk is being non-white and female.  (Last year was the deadliest yet, with 21 women, mostly of color, killed.) Intentional or not, it’s a deeper sting that it was Latin Night at Pulse that Saturday in Orlando.

Absolutely it’s a better time than ever to be transgender. (Thank you, Jazz Jennings, Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, Jennifer Finney Boylan, Connecticut’s Tony Ferraiolo, organizations like True Colors and many others.)

But hatred is alive and well, and you don’t have to be LGBTQ to be its target.  Since 9/11 and through this election year’s anti-Muslim vitriol, I’ve wondered how Muslim Americans can stand being blamed for someone else’s crimes.

I went to the vigil at the Connecticut Capitol building to take and offer solace with the LGBTQ community, but was struck by the palpable hurt in the eyes of the Muslim attendees. They too are victims. So is anyone who is “different.”

You are who you are – it sounds so obvious.  You can’t change your gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, your identity, your very self.

If we can’t be ourselves, we are all victims. Speak up, every time, against mean talk. And, obviously, 1,002 mass shootings since Sandy Hook , speak up until assault weapons are banned.

Here’s to the day when being whoever you are really is passé.


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