In response to Orlando

The first gay pride was a riot

Dear Friends,

I continue to be horrified and angry about the Orlando shootings last week, where 49 people died and 53 were wounded. I’ve been calling as many of my friends who identify as LGBTQ as possible, to hear their feelings of fear, rage, sadness and utter confusion. One person said: “I know we are supposed to rise up, especially since there are so many PRIDE events happening this week, but actually I’m scared for my safety in a way that seems totally irrational. I’m too scared to get angry yet. And too upset to celebrate.”

Buddhist practice reminds us to open to suffering.

I’m a straight white cisgender man, I haven’t stepped foot in a dance club in years, and yet I feel I need to say something. What we’ve witnessed in Orlando is an example of the worst of humanity. A majority of the victims were Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Salvadoran, and the shooting happened on Latinx night. It’s important that the mainstream does not silence the LGBTQ Latinx voices by using this tragedy to fuel an Islamophobic agenda. This is a community that has always been targeted by how they love, who they love, and where they love.

To my friends in these communities hit by this tragedy: You are paving the way for future generations to express themselves, build safer communities, and love who they are. Keep saying what you believe, doing what is right, and loving how you love.

When the media and politicians make statements like it’s not the LGBTQ community being targeted, it’s all free societies, I cannot agree. These attacks were specific, focusing on one segment of society. I’m being told by friends that this violence and loss reminds the LGBTQ community that they remain a target of hatred. My grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, would always remind me that no matter how safe she felt, targeted attacks could come from nowhere. She was traumatized by this until her death.

I want to know how I can help. And I’m curious about how my friends and extended community are doing. Like the statement H.H. The Dalai Lama made this week, “prayers are not enough.” The queer community is piecing lives back together again, and with that – values, hearts, and bodies. I cannot vote in the U.S. but I would not vote for a party with such loose gun laws, and one that makes intellectual gymnastics around gender identity and access to public restrooms. I’ll give blood this week because in many places gay and bisexual men are still not allowed to give blood. I’ll check in on my friends. I’ll write. I’ll listen. I’ll find a way to give those affected by the tragedy a voice in my teachings over the next months. I’ll remember that 40% of American homeless youth identify at LGBTQI.

Lastly, it’s so easy to come out in support of one particular community and claim to be an ally in times of tragedy. More importantly, being an ally means not taking breaks. That’s something I’m learning in this process. Reach out to people you know who identify with the communities affected by this tragedy. Listen. Let them share what comes up for them. After all, the best way to be awake is to practice creating the conditions for others to be awake, to have a voice, and be loved. One practice of love is giving people our attention.

I’d love to hear from you.