On Sunday, 12 June 2016 at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida, lone gunman Omar Mateen shot and killed 49 persons and left 53 others injured, in what the US government is now calling the deadliest domestic incident of its kind.
Although the shooter reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS, his father has since issued a statement denouncing any religious motivations, instead alleging it was the sight of two men kissing months ago that may have triggered his son’s outrage. However, multiple reports have since placed Omar Mateen at Pulse at least a dozen times within the past 3 years. It has also been discovered that Mateen was an active member of 3 exclusively gay meet-up apps.
Human development psychologist Laila Ibrahim commented that, “When I first heard that the shooter in Orlando might be [gay] I thought to myself, he must have such shame. He turned his intense feelings of shame outward.” Internalized shame “comes from being told by your society, your family, your church, and the media that who you are is wrong, perverted, invisible, or tragic. When you believe those messages, your feelings of despair can lead to harming yourself — as in suicide — or harming others — as in gay bashing or perhaps something like the tragic massacre in Orlando, Florida.”
Whatever Mateen’s motivations, we may never know. What we do know is that the massacre cannot be isolated as a random act of homophobic hate and violence. Across the globe, especially in the Caribbean, LGBT individuals are ridiculed for trying to live authentic lives, and acts of violence are committed against their personhood daily. GrenCHAP understands these connections, and extends the deepest sympathies and condolences to the families affected, and to the governments of the United States of America, Puerto Rico and Jamaica.
GrenCHAP reminds Grenadians that this is not a time to be callous; rather it’s a time to hold ourselves accountable to the ways in which we participate in homophobic culture, and the oppression of LGBT persons. Religious leaders and organizations, Al Sharpton, the Presbyterian Church of the USA, the Alliance of Baptists, the Vatican, Union for Reform Judaism, the Dalai Lama, and over 200 Muslim leaders, clerics and scholars, have united to denounce homophobic violence, and to extend their love and support.
In the wake of the mass shooting, the UN Security Council for the first time ever has issued a statement condemning violence-targeting persons because of their sexual orientation. Such a statement comes as the UN Human Rights Council introduces a resolution to create the UN’s first ever LGBT human rights watchdog.
If you know a fellow Grenadian who is LGBTQIA, be the voice of compassion and love.
Director of Psychiatric Services at Callen–Lorde Community Health Center, Dr. Eric Yarbrough says, “The most important thing an individual can do to help someone with accepting their sexual orientation is to express empathy and acceptance regardless of how they identify”.
A sexual reproductive health and human rights advocate for marginalized populations in Grenada.