Jewish Community Relations Councilof San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, Sonoma, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties


#SafeAndEqual: Orlando Massacre Enabled America to “Get” Intersectionality

July 6, 2016
Posted by: Joe Goldman, Public Affairs and Civic Engagement Manager, San Francisco

Many of us are trying to make sense of what happened in Orlando, placing the worst mass shooting in American history in one silo at the cost of others. But in reality, the attack in Orlando brings everything together. It’s as intersectional as intersectionality gets. The massacre touches upon everything: anti-LGBT hatred, unfettered access to guns, terrorism, racism, and anti-Muslim bigotry. Yet interpretations of what Orlando means vary greatly.

Some on the right do not see the impact of lack of gun control and the homophobia that fueled the hate crime. Some politicians even refused to recognize that the attack even occurred at an LGBT establishment. Others were rightfully called to task for previously engaging in anti-LGBT rhetoric, only now to claim support for the LGBT community under these circumstances.

On the left, many seem incapable of acknowledging that this attack is an act of terror inspired by the likes of ISIS. The fact that the terrorist may have been a self-hating gay/bisexual man does not diminish the role of extremist ideology in his actions.

And from both left and right, many frequently ignore the fact that the attack took place on LatinX night at Pulse with the direct purpose of attacking Latinos.

Orlando also exposed the increasing bigotry against Muslims. Some politicians have sought, rather unsuccessfully, to pit the LGBT community against Muslims, a phenomenon sadly all too common in Europe that we must prevent from happening here. Instead of scapegoating Muslim Americans, we must champion American values of pluralism and democracy.

Personally, the Orlando shooting has shattered my sense of security. Before Orlando, I felt safe. Save for visits to the West Bank/Palestine and Jordan, I’ve never hidden my identity or felt unsafe for being a gay man and as a Jew. In retrospect, it’s truly remarkable that as a member of two historically persecuted communities that I’ve been able to live my life as openly as I have for so long.

For years my LGBT activism came from a place of achievement and privilege. I chose (and still choose) to be involved. I came out at fourteen to very supportive family, friends and schoolmates in Los Angeles. After years of activism in the marriage-equality movement, where I know I helped change hearts and minds, I went on to other important causes, including climate change, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and political campaigns. I now live with my partner and we’ve had the option to marry for over two years. 2013 was the last year there was any true legal barrier to our existence in California.

This massacre forced me to realize that how profoundly impacted I am by anti-LGBT violence, even when I didn’t think it could happen to me. I posted the following on Facebook that touches to the core of the matter:

Why is it that someone who had been on terror watch lists more than once, had documented mental illness, and committed domestic violence allowed to access guns? What is wrong with us?!

Also, I want to say this: I'm a gay, Jewish, basically atheist, feminist, anti-racist, Zionist, Muslim-loving, pluralist, pro-democracy American. There are people everywhere from the U.S. (both on the political left and political right) to ISIS who want me, people like me, and our allies dead and/or legitimize violence against us every single day. We must resolve to not scapegoat others for our suffering as we fight for a more inclusive country, nor let our isolationist tendencies of late prevent us from fighting back against the forces that want to destroy us all. We've got a lot of work to do.

Orlando awakened me from my slumber: it is unconscionable to me that in 2016 America that I – and all LGBT people – have the right to marry, but in the eyes of many, still lack the right to live, to love, and even go to the bathroom. Gun violence is used against us. We can no longer separate the sanctity of LGBT life from the need to keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists.

But I’m not naïve; I know I have immense safety as a male with white privilege. Although LGBT people experience more hate crimes in America than any other group, a staggering 80% of these attacks are against LGBT against LGBT people of color. The racism and sexism faced by many in my community continues to manifest itself in violence.

The road to a more equitable and safer society is guaranteed to be bumpy, as was on full display at this year’s San Francisco Pride. However, the LGBT community, fresh off of victories on marriage, is well-poised to force political solutions for political problems. We do not have the luxury to separate politics from our daily lives.

While the tragedy in Orlando still wasn’t enough to pass commonsense gun control legislation, we will not remain silent. The world has witnessed the marriage (pun intended) of LGBT equality with gun control. This is a very good thing.


(Read more of Joe's thoughts on Medium.)

Note: This post marks "Day 13" of JCRC's #18days Against Gun Violence. Please, Help Us Take Action!


PHOTO: "LGBT vs NRA" by Curt Merlo