I could recite the scholarly literature from my dissertation on hate and bias crimes that lists how hate crimes are more serious than other crimes, cause greater injuries, and evoke more trauma and increased likelihood of PTSD. What is at the heart of this matter, however, is that hate crimes target people for what they are, rather than who they are. While the crime in Orlando has not officially been ruled a hate crime, it certainly appears to be one. Those victims could have been any LGBTQ individuals as far as the shooter was concerned. The victims were interchangeable and he shot indiscriminately.
“I’m scared, scared that I cannot be who I truly am in public without grave harm to myself” That is the heartbreaking text that nearly brought me to my knees last night in the wake of the Pulse Nightclub shootings. It was from a dear friend of mine who only recently has begun to explore her sexuality and gender identity. It’s from a dear friend of mine who has not been able to tell her family and most of her friends about her identity. It's from a dear friend who lives nowhere close to Orlando, but still fears and hurts. It is from a dear friend who has a trusted few friends that know her true self and who relies on the safety of LGBTQ-friendly areas and clubs to express herself. That perceived safety has been shattered for her and so many more people all across the country.
There’s really no answer I can give to her fear. All I can say is that I am scared, too. I’m scared for her and anyone else who suffers harm at the hand of hate. I’m scared that nowhere is safe for her. I’m scared that there’s nothing I can do to protect my friend. I’m scared that this will discourage her from being her true self. Most of all, I’m scared that hate will win. We can’t let hate win.
If you are scared, angry, sad, hurt, or anxious because of the shootings in Orlando, you can call Crime Victim Advocacy Center for free counseling at 314-652-3623.
Comments by Jessica M., Director of Advocacy Services