Less than two weeks ago, the nation woke to news that 49 people had been killed and another 53 injured at an Orlando, FL gay nightclub—the deadliest mass shooting in United States history. Details are still emerging, but since the attack, a community is still left shook, angry, and beset with grief.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people from around the world are in mourning after what was also the deadliest act of anti-LGBTQ violence in US history. Many of these mourners are members of the vegan community, struggling to reconcile their emotions with the tragic event. Respectfully, VegNews approaches this topic without the lens of animal welfare, environmentalism, or personal health—but with the overarching virtue of compassion. Valuing and treating our fellow beings with respect, fighting for the marginalized, and standing for justice are central to veganism, all values that align squarely with the battle for LGBTQ rights.
We spoke to well-known LGBTQ vegans about their reaction to the Orlando attack in hopes of opening a frank, healing discussion regarding the value of community and where to go from here. These are their responses.
Jane Velez-Mitchell, on her reaction to the tragedy
As a gay woman of Puerto Rican descent, I felt personally violated and emotionally assaulted by this horror. I was comforted to hear leaders in the LGBTQ community denouncing Donald Trump’s nauseating attempts to capitalize on this massacre by ramping up hate against the Muslim community. “Hate is hate,” one prominent lesbian speaking on a national TV show said. I agree and would add: violence is violence, and violence only breeds more violence. If we are ever to hope for a peaceful world, we must all begin to practice non-violence on a daily basis with every decision we make. The time has come to stop rationalizing senseless killing. Imagine each of us, individually, moving toward a more peaceful way of life. That would be the best way to honor the innocent humans who were so brutally slaughtered in Orlando.
Velez-Mitchell is a journalist and founder of JaneUnchained.com.
Christopher Sebastian McJetters, on Islam as a scapegoat
I have no use for Islamophobia. None. I see people using the oppressive conditions of Muslim countries as evidence of the inherent harm of Islam. And it’s rarely followed by an acknowledgement of western complicity in financing and maintaining oppression in those countries. When you look past the superficial layers of [claims that Islam is inherently oppressive] in a religious context, oppression is usually the result of people in power pursuing a particular social or political agenda. And if you want to say that Christianity is “not as bad,” I suppose you can. But Islam didn’t terrorize queer bodies at Stonewall. Islam didn’t ignore the HIV epidemic in the United States during the 1980s. Islam didn’t legislate Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Islam did not kill Gwen Araujo. It did not kill Britney Cosby and her girlfriend Crystal Jackson in Texas. And it certainly didn’t murder Keisha Jackson in Philadelphia.
McJetters is an advisory board member for Black Vegans Rock and staff writer at Vegan Publishers.
Pax Ahimsa Gethen, on the overlooking of the attack’s queer context
It’s grossly irresponsible, though not at all surprising, of the mainstream news outlets to erase queer and Latinx people and focus solely or primarily on terrorism (which also breeds Islamophobia). Latina and black trans women were featured performers that evening. The vast majority of the victims were Latinx. This was not a mere coincidence, and I am tired of our communities being erased and tokenized. The hashtag “#WeAreOrlando” is wrong. We are not all Orlando, and cisgender heterosexual white people should be amplifying the voices of the queer and Latinx people whose communities were specifically targeted by this attack.
Gethen is an activist and advisory board member for Black Vegans Rock.
Sean O’Callaghan, on an outsider’s perspective of American gun violence
Why do more mass shootings happen in the United States in comparison to other parts of the world? Easy access to high-powered assault weapons. I was a young person in Australia when a man used a semi-automatic rifle to kill 35 people while injuring a further 23 in Port Arthur, Tasmania in 1996. The response from the Australian Government was swift and decisive—the National Firearms Programme Implementation Act 1996 restricted the private ownership of high-capacity semi-automatic rifles, semi-automatic shotguns, and pump-action shotguns. Of course, there has been gun crime in Australia since the Port Arthur massacre, but very few incidents that can be referred to as mass shootings. In contrast, mass shootings occur close to every two weeks in the US. We need to actively resist the proliferation of, and obscenely easy access to, assault weapons across the country. When we stand up against money-obsessed gun lobbyists, we are not simply saying we don’t want to be shot in movie theaters, places of worship, schools, clubs, or in the street. We are also announcing our intent to topple the inequitable dominant power structures that want to destroy and control LGBTQ people legally, economically, and emotionally. We can and should fight these multiple oppressions simultaneously.
O’Callaghan was born in Australia, is based in London and Mexico City, and is the founder of Fat Gay Vegan.
Saryta Rodriguez, on the next steps
Please remember the victims and their families, and hold them in your hearts at this difficult time. Don’t allow politicians use this to pull you into their agenda. To the LGBTQP+ community, stay strong, and know that like so much else before, you will survive this, too. To our allies, please take the time to truly reflect on what happened and how you would feel if it were you, your friend, or loved one involved. Don’t use this as an opportunity to engage in ally theater. LGBTQP+s need your support right now, not your heroism. Whether you’re LGBTQP+ or not, our focus right now should be on expressing empathy and developing concrete steps for combatting homophobia. Everything else is just a sideshow.
Rodirguez is an author and member of Food Not Bombs.
Michael Suchman and Ethan Ciment, on finding hope in the wake of tragedy
Like everyone else, we were horrified and overwhelmed with sadness when we heard the news. Then outrage and anger set in before being replaced with pride. Seeing the overwhelming response of support within and for the LGBTQ community made us realize that this attack—designed to terrorize and divide us—has united us, empowered us, and breathed new life into the public conversation about LGBTQ issues. Many people have seen the rapid changes in marriage equality in the US and erroneously assumed that we now live in a culture of equality. The reality is far from that. Though we have the right to marry, LGBTQ persons are still the target of hate crimes, as well as religiously and politically motivated discrimination. When we unite in community—a community that is centered around love—we are invincible.
Suchman and Ciment are the founders of Vegan Mos.
Heidi Lovig, on her message to the community
To my communities, both LGBTQ and vegan, I want to say that I love you. Thank you for going to battle for equality. Thank you for turning hate to love. Thank you for being the change you wish to see in this world. Thank you for living your values. Thank you for turning anger and fear into the transformation of your own behaviors. Thank you for coming out. Thank you for being loud. Our loss is insurmountable. But our love is, too. I love you.
Lovig is a vegan chef and founder of Heidi Ho Organics.