As I take stock of the carnage -- physical, emotional, and social -- coming out of the massacre in Orlando earlier this month, I have to admit that my own evolution on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) issues was a slow one.
In college and through graduate school, I was affiliated with many of the most vocal conservative causes of the day, edited the school’s alternative conservative newspaper for a while, and served in the campaigns of Republican presidential nominees Bob Dole and George W Bush.
As a regular, heterosexual man, I am attracted to women who are pretty, smart, and have great personalities; the concept of same-sex attraction is something I don’t pretend to understand myself.
I don’t have to.
You see, I also believe in science just as I believe in being loyal to friends.
More than two decades ago, the global authority on psychological and psychiatric disorders, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), finally yielded to compelling evidence from both the biological and the social sciences, and removed any reference to homosexuality as a clinical aberration or abnormality.
Further independent research continues to confirm that homosexuality is normal in nature and plenty of species have a small proportion of individuals who are genetically “wired” in that manner.
Anyone who suggests that the state of being gay or lesbian is synonymous to some illness or perversion may be expressing deeply held religious or social beliefs, but is certainly at utter variance with evidence and scientific consensus.
My next door neighbor is gay, as is one of my lawyers, and one of my closest friends from my undergraduate days in college. Each of them is an outstanding individual who has lent a hand or a sympathetic ear when I have needed it.
If these gentlemen are “perverts” as many of their detractors might put it, I can honestly say, we need more of them.
Are there gays and lesbians who are mentally unstable, dangerous, and perverted? You bet there are … just as there are plenty of those kinds of deviants amongst heterosexuals (or, for that matter, amongst vegetarians, socialists, businessmen, meat-eaters … take your demographic pick).
Expressing sympathy for the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre while immediately qualifying it with something along the lines of “they are perverts but shouldn’t really be killed” only serves to rub huge doses of condescending salt on a wound that is raw.
Unfortunately, that is the kind of phony sympathy that I have seen beyond abundance on the social media profiles of too many people from South Asia and the Middle East.
I get it that orthodox interpretations of all major religious traditions condemn homosexual conduct with a vehemence that is almost chilling. If you subscribe to such interpretations, that’s fine by me as long as those beliefs don’t translate into causing harm to others.
To respect someone’s humanity, we don’t need to like that person, or that person’s sexuality, or that person’s hair colour, or their skin tone
At the end of the day, nobody has appointed you God to make the judgment call about who is going to heaven and who is headed in the other direction; and you certainly aren’t entitled to engage in activities that can imperil the lives and livelihoods of people you deem wicked based on simply your religious beliefs.
This was precisely the reasoning that guided the Ottoman Empire -- today fondly considered as the epitome of latter day Muslim rule by many of the Islamist revanchists -- to decriminalise homosexuality in 1858, more than a hundred years before most European and North American countries did.
The nature of the intimate relationship between two consenting adult human beings is something that really has no bearing on their humanity.
When LGBT individuals are victims of terror and homicide, they hurt, bleed, and die just like anyone else.
Thus, they deserve the same respect and mourning that their non-LGBT peers are entitled to.
Such unvarnished mourning is all the more important when the massacre was partly motivated by a hatred of homosexuals on part of the perpetrator.
To respect someone’s humanity, we don’t need to like that person, or that person’s sexuality, or that person’s hair colour, or their skin tone, or any of the myriad of other genetic traits with which individuals come pre-packaged.
We don’t even need to understand the mystery of these traits.
We simply need to acknowledge that another human being is, well, a human being whose life matters just like any of his or her peers.
So, express sympathy if you must, but at least make it sincere and about the victims, instead of a backhanded expression of condescension mixed with a generous dose of nauseating self-righteousness.
The men and women who died at the Pulse Club in Orlando that Saturday were human beings like you and I.