Please, no, I thought. Don’t let someone so savage be one of us. If any good can come from this nightmare, it is that there will be more open discussion about acceptance of LGBT people and the harm that comes from continued anti-gay religious dogma and political rhetoric. The haters look for anything to deny culpability. I shudder to hear them shoot back with, “He was one of you.” They’re not saying it yet. Even the haters—at least those not affiliated with a certain heinous Kansas church—have the sense to shut up for a while. But they’ll twist and distort anew once the next scary bathroom ordinance comes up for a vote or another baker bemoans a message two grooms want scrawled on a cake.
One of us.
We’ve all heard for ages how he who doth protest too much may be fighting something internal. The fag haters may very well be gay. The thinking is that the vial they spew deflects any shadow of suspicion. It’s an interesting argument and, yes, I’m sure that on occasion it is true. But I doubt that is true of the majority of anti-gay men. And I cringe that gay men hold onto this belief. It smacks of self-hate—I know you are, but what am I.
Thus far, according to The Times, FBI investigators “have not found any independent corroboration—through his web searches, emails or other electronic data—to establish that he was, in fact, gay.” Whew.
But what if they do? How could a man so conflicted about his sexual orientation take out his wrath on a group he may have been raised to shun? How could gay men have become the enemy? Wouldn’t it make more sense to turn one’s back on intolerant religious views? It’s futile to ruefully wish for logic regarding a cold-blooded killer.
There’s also the possibility that he had faced rejection by gay men. Repeatedly. After the massacre, there was much talk of gay clubs as being a refuge, a spot where one can stop checking one’s mannerisms and a place for celebration, maybe even connection. Sure, on any given night, all that is possible, but let’s not get too fanciful. I can recall many a walk back to the car feeling overlooked or flat-out rejected. I loathed the go-go boys, gyrating on a podium in well-packaged thongs and taking away any chance I could establish eye contact with spellbound above-average Joes. The go-go boys were merely scapegoats with six packs. Sometimes it can feel devastatingly lonely in a gay bar. Could negative experiences, combined with an upbringing of gay intolerance, have triggered the killer to snap? Again, too often we try to search for rational factors to explain irrational acts. We’ve already spent more than enough time thinking about and for the killer.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is quoted as saying, “People often act out of more than one motivation.” To be sure, the killer espoused radicalized views of terrorists. He wanted maximum carnage. But Pulse nightclub was a conscious choice. Gay, Latino men were targeted. Lynch went on to say what has been said over and over since the massacre: “This was clearly an act of terror and an act of hate.” Whether he was or wasn’t gay, a range of influences—familial, religious, cultural, social, political—contributed to the fact that he hated gays. At this point, who he was is immaterial. It’s the contributing factors that bear scrutiny. These are the areas that must continue to evolve. They require our continued focus. Any further focus on the killer is a fruitless distraction.