Angie Larsen: Orlando shows homophobic words can lead to violence

Lately, America has been in a heated debate over whether transgender people should be allowed to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

The debate, while provoking heartfelt, accepting responses from some, allowed bigots to express their deepest frustrations, calling trans people "rapists" and "child molesters" and telling trans people to "pee in the bushes" instead of being allowed to use their bathroom of choice.

The hate against LGBT people is still here. After the massacre in Orlando, how much progress has the LGBT rights movement actually made?

It feels surreal, to know that last June, people were celebrating marriage equality, and that this June will be spent mourning 49 men and women who were killed, and 53 others who were wounded when a gunman opened fire in Pulse, a gay nightclub.

Gay bars have historically been sanctuaries for LGBT people. The gunman invaded that safe space. I do not want to say the gunman's name, which would give him the attention he wants. Instead, let's remember the victims, many of whom were in their 20s. The vast majority were Latino. They all had their lives cut short. They died because America is a homophobic country.


LGBT people of color are twice as likely to experience violence as white LGBT people.they were straight, and if Pulse wasn't known as a gay bar, the gunman would not have targeted them. This was a homophobic attack.

To be shocked that in a country that just still allows people to be fired for being gay in 31 states could inspire a madman to violently target LGBT people would be naive. After all, Ted Cruz attended a conference hosted by Kevin Swanson, a pastor who calls for gays to be put to death. His statement offering his condolences felt hollow and tone deaf, when he should have realized he is complicit in a culture that allows people to believe they should kill LGBT people.

Though acceptance of the LGBT community has increased greatly in recent years, politicians, celebrities, and regular people who embrace homophobic thought, or let it slide without saying anything, should take this as a wakeup call, that hate speech leads to hate crimes, that homophobia and transphobia very easily turn violent if left to simmer in the hearts and minds of people unchallenged.

Attending a memorial for the victims Tuesday night, a woman pleaded with straight people to not just be her ally, but to be her "accomplice," to be an active ally who does not only change their Facebook profile picture to a rainbow flag, but one who calls out homophobia and transphobia and isn't afraid to lose friends over it.

This is also an issue of gun control, as it is now obvious the gunman should have never been allowed to have a gun. Some have used this as an excuse to demonize Islam, though nothing is ever an excuse to demonize an entire religion.

This tragedy cannot be discussed without bringing up homophobia and transphobia, and the only way to prevent another Orlando is to jettison ourselves of homophobia and transphobia, and to call out others when their actions and words are homophobic and transphobic.

Orlando teaches us that words hurt, and words can lead to violence. If one believes that LGBT people deserve to live lives without violence, one will challenge homophobia and transphobia wherever and whenever it is encountered.

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