Why The Orlando Gunman's Sexuality Is Entirely Irrelevant To The Tragedy

by Zara Barrie

The days since the homophobic, tragic shootings at the Orlando gay nightclub Pulse have been some of the darkest, most deeply hopeless days our country has ever seen since 9/11.

This tragedy doesn't just cut deep because I'm a queer girl who spent half a decade on the Florida club circuit and I've experienced my own nights of community, safety and carefree fun, within the walls of Pulse.

I'm sorely heartbroken for myself, my queer family, but also am reeling, gutted and in mourning for my human family. Because this wasn't just an attack against queer people, this is an attack against humanity. Peel back those layers of sexuality and identity and we're left with one thing -- humanity.

The world has felt like a dark blur since Saturday night and I can't make sense of any of it. And you know what? I don't want to.

It feels like in the past 24 hours the conversation has suddenly shifted about the tragic Orlando shootings. It seems like my Facebook feed has started to taper away from sorrow and grief, and instead is steering its attention to the sexual orientation of the gunman Omar Mateen.

Was he gay? Was his motivation behind his cold-blooded attack really just an attack on his own sexuality? Did he ruthlessly murder 49 beautiful, innocent bright lights of my community, wound 52 and leave the victims loved ones in a state of unshakeable shock and grief, because he was a closet queer and the shame was just too much? Was his deep homophobia what made him commit the most brutal shooting our country has ever experienced?

Word on the street is that Mateen visited Pulse several times prior to the attack and was usually belligerent and trying to pick up boys. Our society has now become fixated on Mateen's sexuality.

Maybe I'm just still too raw, too consumed with the pain of this great loss, but right now I don't care about Mateen's sexual preference. No matter how much we speculate we'll never really know and it won't undo the irreparable damage that has been done to the community.

I know from personal experience that repressed homosexuality is dark, it's dangerous and it's profoundly impacted my own life. I spent two decades in the closet, huddled and hiding under blankets of shame. And the emotional ramifications were severe.

Years spent swallowing this secret manifested in dark, painful ways. I suffered from an eating disorder. I drank until I blacked out, I dabbled in drugs, I hurt myself in places no one could see. I abused the happy pills prescribed by Dr. Feel Good and was diagnosed with anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder and OCD. After years of therapy I've learned it's all in some way connected to shame over repressed sexuality.

When you're ashamed of your sexuality, you're ashamed of the most human part of who you are. When you're hiding your sexuality, you're also hiding the most authentic, pure parts of yourself. No amount of numbing or self-destructing will let you run from the truth, that this is who you are.

Every single one of my close queer friends have hidden their sexuality or gender, at some point. A lot of them didn't grow up in liberal households. No one was out in school back then. There were hardly any queer media figures that we could identify with.

I've lost some of my most precious, promising friends to suicide and overdose. With a heavy heart I've attended more funerals that were as a result of self-hatred and shame than I care to count. I've had friends kicked out on the street, made homeless by their own parents. I've had friends jumped and beaten just because of speculation over their sexuality. As a community, the queer community has been through it, and back again.

But you know what? Despite the hardship, not one of us has ever been driven to kill an innocent human.

Maybe right now the wound is still too fresh, but in this moment, I don't want to make sense of the motives behind Mateen's ruthless shootings.

Being a repressed homosexual doesn't make a person a mass murderer. Swallowing a painful secret doesn't give you the wherewithal to go inside a nightclub and take the lives away from 49 innocent people.

The conversation surrounding Mateen's sexuality almost doesn't feel appropriate to me. Like I said before, sexuality is the most rawly human part thing there is.

Murder is the most inhumane thing there is.

Maybe Mateen was a big, giant homo or maybe he wasn't. But it's irrelevant to the fact that he is a cold-blooded terrorist that has left too many of us feeling hopeless, afraid and broken. Having knowledge of Mateen's sexual orientation isn't going alleviate the heartbreak he's bestowed on the city of Orlando.

It's against the inherent nature of a human being to kill another human being. Attaching a sexual orientation to Mateen is attaching humanity to him. And I don't want to give him an ounce of anything that's connected to humanity.

Because Mateen was void of humanity and killed 49 innocent humans in the process.