Mnookin: Prejudice and Pride

Jun 20, 2016

That Saturday, my wife and our two young daughters went to a Pride Family Picnic near our Brattleboro home. It was organized by Green Mountain Crossroads, a regional nonprofit creating community for rural LGBTQ people. We spent a peaceful, misty morning eating potluck food from rainbow-colored plates and swapping stories with other queer families. We felt safe, nurtured, and proud.

The next day, we learned about the Orlando massacre - the most violent hate crime against LGBT people to date, most of whom were people of color, and the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history. As Bryan Safi, writer and host of the TV segment That’s Gay, tweeted after the attack, “Gay bars exist because they are safe places in a world that remains unsafe for LGBT [people].” But on that tragic night, even Pulse, a popular gay club hosting its weekly Latin night, had been anything but safe.

The night after the attack, and two days after the Pride Family Picnic, Green Mountain Crossroads organized a community vigil for Orlando. As we shared our feelings, people lamented that many of their friends and family didn’t appear to understand how deeply this attack was felt by the entire queer community.

I found myself voicing frustration at those on social media who were asking us to pray for Orlando and to love each other. I was surprised at how angry I became at the claim that love conquers all. While I wish this were enough, I now know this isn’t true.

The kind of change that’s needed in our culture doesn’t come from prayer and love alone. We need transformational change that condemns hatred and bigotry, makes every kind of discrimination illegal, truly separates church and state, and calls a tragedy like this what it is - a hate crime. And this kind of change will only come from speaking out, working together, and taking direct action: like the actors who dressed as angels to block Westboro Baptist Church members’ hate-filled protests of the Orlando victims’ funerals.

Legislation plays a part, too, and I will hold my legislators responsible for the ways in which they succeed - and fail - to move forward on the fundamental issues involved – like gun control; specifically, background checks and a ban on assault rifles. I believe these are essential next steps, and while I will continue to love my family fiercely, I will also demand and support change in the world around us.