I woke Sunday morning to my phone chirping that a new text message had arrived. It was from my radio show co-host, Steph Taylor inviting me to a vigil to be held in our local town… a vigil for Orlando.
I did not know anything had happened in Orlando, but as with all other mass shootings, I usually got the first news from such a text as Steph’s.
A popular LGBTQ club called Pulse had been invaded by an assault rifle wielding gunman and 49 LGBTQ people were dead, and an equal amount severely wounded.
For whatever reason, my first exposure to commentary by those seeking to lead our nation was that of Donald Trump. He was opportunistic in his commentary. The first tweets I saw were: “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.”
“Reporting that Orlando killer shouted 'Allah hu Akbar!' as he slaughtered clubgoers.”
And: “What has happened in Orlando is just the beginning. Our leadership is weak and ineffective. I called it and asked for the ban.”
While mentioning the “victims and their families” once, Mr. Trump never once commented on the hate crime that had been enacted on the LGBTQ community as a whole, or the feelings, impact and terror the days events had on us.
He did have a passing reference about “second man arrested in L.A. with rifles near gay parade.” This, Mr. Trump reported as passionless information. The man, as it turns out, was not a second to the Orlando shooting, but completely unrelated. He also did not fit Trump’s Muslim ban narrative — the man in Los Angeles was from Indiana.
As Mr. Trump was trying to pad his Islamophobic opportunism, I was engaging with one of his supporters on Twitter. The man’s tweet read, “Well there was a bad shooting in the gay community. Sorry for your loss.” It was followed by a meme that read: “Nice!”
I contrast Mr. Trumps response with that of his rival, Mrs. Clinton. She wrote a measured commentary and included this specific message: “This was also an act of hate. The gunman attacked an LGBT nightclub during Pride Month. To the LGBT community: please know that you have millions of allies across our country. I am one of them. We will keep fighting for your right to live freely, openly and without fear. Hate has absolutely no place in America.”
Even former rival Ted Cruz, no ally to the LGBTQ community said, “Now is the opportunity to speak out against an ideology that calls for the murder of gays and lesbians. ISIS and the theocracy in Iran (supported with American taxpayer dollars) regularly murder homosexuals, throwing them from buildings and burying them under rocks. This is wrong, it is evil, and we must all stand against it. Every human being has a right to live according to his or her faith and conscience, and nobody has a right to murder someone who doesn’t share their faith or sexual orientation.”
Dear Mr. Trump,
I am a gay dad. I am the proud father of two boys, now both 13 years old, who I got as babies after they were given birth by drug-addicted parents. Our family is hurting today as an assault rifle-bearing thug targeted part of our LGBTQ American community. He entered a safe space and took lives of many people less than a decade older than my kids.
As we do in times of national tragedy, we turn to our leadership’s words for inspiration. We did collectively to Roosevelt in World War II, Kennedy with the Bay of Pigs, and to George W. Bush at 9/11. Whether we agreed ideologically with these leaders or not, we listened and embraced the inspiration they gave out. It was not necessarily because they themselves were brilliant, it was because we needed to find a sense of solidarity within ourselves.
So too now, we hear that call in President Obama’s commentary on the events in Orlando. He said to us, “This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends — our fellow Americans — who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub — it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights. So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American — regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation — is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country.”
President Obama is a leader. You are not.
For whatever complexities this act of violence entails, at the core is a hate crime. The shooter’s father alleges that it was motivated by the shooter witnessing a kiss between two men in front of his child. As one who swears allegiance to a religion that throws suspected gay men from the tops of buildings, it is not difficult to see how such an event might throw him into an extreme and inordinate reaction. Most on the presidential stage today seem to understand that fact.
Except for you.
In your approximately 100-some words of tweets, you never once called out the hate crime terror enacted against the LGBTQ community. Mentioning the pain and shock millions of us are experiencing today seemed… inconvenient for you. It is as if such a mention might dilute your attempt to justify your own extreme ideas on Muslims in America. So, you danced on your drum beat of that mantra— throw the foreigners out.
In doing so, you are dancing on the new graves of our LGBTQ dead. Stop it.
As you “danced,” you jabbed at President Obama, “Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn’t he should immediately resign in disgrace!”
Islamic terrorism has not been proven. Homophobia has. The shooter did not target Disney World. He targeted a “safe haven” for LGBTQ people. He was not making a point about American values, he was trying to terrorize those of us who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and more to retreat from public view.
The fact that your commentary does not even allude to this fact means that you are perfectly willing for him to accomplish that goal. Silence from a person in power says as much as their commentary. Ronald Reagan still wears the taint of silence about AIDS for several years after the time he should have appropriately discussed it.
So, it appears will be the case with you and another disease’s name that cannot be uttered: Homophobia.
That means for me, and my family, that should you become elected as the next American president…. You won’t be MY president. You won’t be my family’s president. You won’t be my community’s president.
If anyone should resign in disgrace, Mr. Trump, it should be the person unwilling to represent all Americans when we are attacked. That person is, singularly, you.
It’s time to delete your account.
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Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.