Across the world, June is Pride month; a month where the world honors the LGBTQ community and their lifestyles. Growing up, being gay or knowing an individual who was/is gay was never a big deal. It STILL isn’t a big deal. My parents raised my brother and I on three principles: treat others the way you want to be treated, men and women are equal in all aspects and never change who you are for someone else. I realize that people may not have had parents, such as mine, who taught them these values but the majority of people I know have these values instilled in them. At least I hope they do.
My brother and I were taught to never hate others because of the religion that was bestowed upon us at birth. We were taught that violence was never the answer. We were taught to never judge people because they chose to live differently than us. I was 13 when Canada (my country) legalized gay marriage. I was 23 when the United States did.
I remember the day when the United States legalized gay marriage, I had just come back from a three day music festival in Las Vegas. A festival which had an array of people; white, black, Indian, gays, lesbians and so on and so forth. Maybe it was because I grew up in a country where I never saw homophobia up close, or maybe I did and chose to ignore it, but I couldn’t comprehend the malice and the hurtful words I heard directed towards certain individuals. I couldn’t help but feel sad for them when I heard them say how lucky I was to live in a country that recognized their lifestyle and their choice to marry. And I couldn’t tell you how proud I was to see the United States finally recognizing them inclusively as opposed to viewing them as outsiders.
The events today in Orlando shook me to my core. This is the second shooting in Florida over the course of two days; this is the worst mass shooting in United States history (50 dead and over 50 injured). Since Monday, the United States had 7 mass shootings. In contrast, Canada has had 8 mass shootings in 20 years. Now I ask, why is the right to obtain and purchase a gun still in the American constitution? Why are you letting a piece of paper dictate who lives and who dies? Guns do not kill people. People with guns kill people. People with malice and hatred in their heart kill people.
Why hasn’t anyone learned?
How many more children, women and men need to die before anyone does anything?
I’ve asked myself this constantly over the last 24 hours and I can’t even begin to comprehend how to answer them without feeling angry or disgusted. This is bigger then one person. This is going to take a village. And to gun enthusiasts, I ask you: What if it were your child? Your wife, husband, brother, sister or parent? Would you reconsider it then? How appealing would guns be then, huh?
There are 50 sets of parents, siblings and loved ones who are calling their loved ones, whose bodies are lying on a club floor. Their hearts no longer beat. Their voice no longer being heard. Who’s dreams and aspirations vanished as soon as that trigger was pulled. They are people who never got a chance to say goodbye. The only sounds now are those deafening cell phone ringers and behind them are frantic people just praying that their child or sibling or best friend or partner is not the one they have to make funeral arrangements for.
To the families and loved ones of these beautiful souls lost today, I send you my love, my prayers and my deepest condolences. I could never imagine what you’re going through or feeling. I don’t know what I do if it was my brother or best friends who died in such a tragedy. I am sorry that people have hate in their hearts. I’m sorry that you never got a chance to say goodbye. I’m sorry there will never be justice for the man who killed them. And I’m sorry that your political figures are doing nothing to rectify the situation.
Finally, to my dear friends and loved ones who are a part of the LGBTQ community. There are no words to describe how in awe I am of you all. You have more bravery, courage and strength that most people will ever have in a lifetime. Never forget that you matter. You are important. You are equal. And there is nothing no one can say or do to take away who you are. You are special and you are loved. I wish you all a safe Pride month. Please continue to be who you are. You’re the brightest stars in a world full of hate.
Who we chose to love is not a choice. But hatred, that’s a choice; a taught behaviour. As Ghandi said, we need to be the change we want to see in the world. We are the voices whispered in the silence. I do not want to raise my future children in a world like this. We can change things for the better. We just need to open our eyes and hearts to this change. Once we do that, we might see results.
Please remember to be kind. Be different. Stand out. And don’t give a fuck about what other people think of you.
And p.s. America, get your shit together. Enough is enough.