By Jason Marsden, Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation
We cannot fathom the sheer hatred that would lead someone to shoot down more than a hundred complete strangers gathered in their community’s own safe space to innocently celebrate. Last night’s massacre at an Orlando gay bar is the latest senseless tragedy to befall our country and, poignantly, one of our many minority communities who continually struggle for their basic freedom and security. We cannot overstate our sorrow and grief on behalf of all the victims and all who love and care about them.
Sadly, attacks of this nature do not require “radicalism.” Anti-LGBTQ+ hatred is simply too ingrained in our country and around the world to be explained away as an exception. Violence of this type happens several times every day in the U.S., but usually on a smaller scale that escapes most of our notice. This crime has brought it once more to our full attention. Be it Orlando, or Charleston, or Colorado Springs, we are reminded all too often that we can be chosen as victims for merely seeking to be our authentic selves. We must seize this moment to renew our commitment as an entire society to reject violence and hatred and instill understanding, compassion and acceptance as the paramount values they deserve to be.
This is a time where we must come together to help and to heal. We strongly urge everyone who feels the sting of this latest injustice to donate to relief efforts for the victims and, if they are allowed to as they should be, to give blood. When events of this nature occur it is normal and human to look for someone to blame. We implore everyone who feels victimized to remember that the actions of one do not speak for all. Should this turn out to have been motivated by one individual’s religious beliefs, we must all remember that many religions, not just one, have taught hatred of LGBTQ+ people. Just as others have long stereotyped LGBTQ+ people, we must not ascribe one murderer’s intentions to his entire community of fellow believers. Senseless reactionary violence against anyone is unacceptable.