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To Those Who Preach Homophobia: An Open Letter In the Wake of the Orlando Shooting

by Kristen Trudo, St. Louis 15. Graduate Support Assistant, De La Salle Middle School. Loyola Marymount University 15.

Originally posted on Ignatian Solidarity Network’s Voices for Justice blog.

I hope you have watched the news over the last few days. Because I find that I can’t stop. And I hope you have made the same connections that I have, and recognize that this – fifty human beings murdered – is what your homophobia looks like. This is the world you have created. This is the manifestation of your rhetoric. This – a club in Orlando throbbing with gunfire and buried in blood – is the kingdom your gospel promises to bring about.

reflections on pulse - orlando

[Credit: Kristen Trudo]

But perhaps you have yet to make that connection. So I will draw it for you. My eyes hurt when I woke up this morning. This constant, dull, pain. The kind of pain I get when I’ve spent endless hours crying. But I have yet to cry over Pulse, so I wonder if perhaps my eyes have simply learned how to match the pain I feel everywhere else, even without the monotony of my tears. At any rate, the pain is dull, but the reminder it perpetuates is as sharp as pain gets. The reminder is that I am not safe, we are not safe. That my body is expendable, ourbodies expendable. That by nature, I am vulnerable, we are vulnerable. And it shatters me with a devastating weakness. In both body and spirit. A resignation. A fear.

So I was walking to work today, in pain, with my head down. Staring at the ground. Watching my feet move. And I wonder, now, how close my legs are to giving up on me. If this pain I carry will eventually be too much to bear. But, anyways – I was looking down at my feet when someone said good morning. So I looked up. And suddenly felt overwhelmed by fear. A fear I didn’t recognize. An irrational fear, even. I choked out a response, but my heart started beating with a frequency that surprised me. Because, in that moment, it felt like I was looking into the very face of hatred: I am black and queer and a womyn. And I was looking into the eyes of a person who presented as cisgender and white and male. He said good morning. And, I wondered, just for a beat, if he greeted me just to scare me. I recognize, fully, how unfair that is to him. And for that – for assuming in that moment that he was racist and homophobic and sexist – I am sorry. But more than that, I am angry. And exhausted. Because I did not create this world for myself. This anxiety. This vigilance. This kingdom.

You did.

Count to Fifty

And so I want you to count to fifty. And to know that you are complicit in every single one of these murders. That you have perpetuated – are perpetuating – a culture of fear and a culture of hate. And this world that you are fashioning has allowed for a man to see two men kissing; and to decide to travel to a gay club, and to proclaim, one-by-one, with each pull of the trigger, that gay people deserved to die. That was his gospel. Your gospel. Their deaths were his good news. And I wonder if they are yours, as well. That though you may believe yourself incapable of physically murdering queer folks, you sure do put a great deal of energy into the attempted murder of our emotional and psychological and relational beings. And really, if you successfully strip us of those things, can you actually look upon your hands and say that they are clean?

So I want you to sit with that number. Fifty. And to know that you created this man. You armed him with this hateful ideology. You gave him permission to murder someone’s brother. And son. And uncle. And partner. And best friend. With your rhetoric of “abominations” and love that is “unnatural,” you gave him permission to murder someone. Someones. And your words and teachings and gospel are his pat on the back, his affirmation, the applause he needed to stand, unwavering, in his decision to pillage gay lives.

I Wonder

And so I wonder about your children. Like the ones I have encountered in my work. Who speak with vitriol about queer folks. Who have, quite literally, wished death upon folks like me. I wonder if they come home and tell you about the hate they have spewed. And I wonder if you pat them on the back, or affirm their poison and pour them another glass, or applaud the work they are doing to bring about the kingdom of your god. And then I wonder if you realize that you are creating Pulse. That your kingdom, your gospel, is one in which a human being can walk into a building and never walk out again because of who they loved.

I wonder if you see that connection: that the poison you send coursing through your child’s veins stays there, hardening their heart until the vitriol has no direction to travel but outward: into the world; and into a nightclub where queer people have found their own church and a gospel of love. I wonder if you recognize that when you arm a child with hatred, when you infuse it into their very being, there is no telling what that hatred will become: It is the old adage that language creates thought, and thought creates actions. And that perhaps your child will not find fulfillment in simply wishing death upon an entire group of people. Perhaps they will feel compelled to bring it about themselves. Has that ever occurred to you?

You Are Complicit

You are complicit when the most you can extend to another human being is tolerance. You are complicit when you refuse to respect the identity of another person – merely because it makes you uncomfortable. You are complicit when you suggest to us that we are unnatural or sick or going through a phase. You are complicit when you believe it’s appropriate to suddenly start praying for the “sinner” you have spent your life condemning. You are complicit when you choose to ignore our existence. And you are complicit when you sit silently and believe, even for a moment, that you have no responsibility to take up this work.

It is in these moments, these acts of complicity, that you write your gospel. That you proclaim the word that many will choose to live by.

So I am here to tell you that this complicity, this poison, is murder. And while I am having a nearly impossible time finding hope, and haven’t found myself kneeling down in prayer in years, you can find me on my knees, now: imploring you to rewrite the gospel you are preaching and the kingdom you are working to bring about.