In the wee hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016, just as last call drinks were being served at around 2:00 a.m., 29-year-old Omar Mateen walked into Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., slaughtering 49 people and wounding 53 others in a mass shooting. Armed with a SIG Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle and a 9mm Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol, Mateen’s violent attack on the virtually 320 patrons inside the club would become the deadliest lone gunman mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The Pulse massacre would go on to surpass the most notorious act of violence against a gay bar was the UpStairs Lounge arson attack, a three-story gay bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans, which occurred on June 24, 1973.
The incident resulted in the death of 32 victims and 15 non-fatal injuries in less than 20 minutes. Known as the most lethal incident of violence against LGBTQ people in American history, the incident at Pulse hit the heartstrings of non-white ethnic minorities nationwide as the anti-gay terrorist attack occurred on “Latin Night,” a weekly Saturday-night event drawing a primarily Hispanic crowd.
Since the incident, various LGBTQ artists have shared poignant and intimate exposés in reaction to the national tragedy, like Melissa Etheridge who penned a critically acclaimed single, and the release of the benefit single “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” which was recorded by dozens of Broadway all-stars.
In an abnormal turn of events, two-time Grammy winning R&B singer-songwriter Frank Ocean has emerged from whatever subterranean wilderness he’s been hiding to offer a powerful introspective message on the attack on Pulse and what kind of message an attack like the one committed by Mateen sends to LGBTQ people and their allies:
“I read in the paper that my brothers are being thrown from rooftops blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs for violating sharia law. I heard the crowds stone these fallen men if they move after they hit the ground. I heard it’s in the name of God. I heard my pastor speak for God too, quoting scripture from his book. Words like abomination popped off my skin like hot grease as he went on to describe a lake of fire that God wanted me in.
I heard on the news that the aftermath of a hate crime left piles of bodies on a dance floor this month. I heard the gunman feigned dead among all the people he killed. I heard the news say he was one of us. I was six years old when I heard my dad call our transgender waitress a faggot as he dragged me out a neighborhood diner saying we wouldn’t be served because she was dirty. That was the last afternoon I saw my father and the first time I heard that word, I think, although it wouldn’t shock me if it wasn’t.
Many hate us and wish we didn’t exist. Many are annoyed by our wanting to be married like everyone else or use the correct restroom like everyone else. Many don’t see anything wrong with passing down the same old values that send thousands of kids into suicidal depression each year. So we say pride and we express love for who and what we are. Because who else will in earnest? I daydream on the idea that maybe all this barbarism and all these transgressions against ourselves is an equal and opposite reaction to something better happening in this world, some great swelling wave of openness and wakefulness out here. Reality by comparison looks grey, as in neither black nor white but also bleak.
We are all God’s children, I heard. I left my siblings out of it and spoke with my maker directly and I think he sounds a lot like myself. If I being myself were more awesome at being detached from my own story in a way I being myself never could be. I wanna know what others hear, I’m scared to know but I wanna know what everyone hears when they talk to God. Do the insane hear the voice distorted? Do the indoctrinated hear another voice entirely?”
On June 21, mere hours after Ocean penned his startling and thought-provoking blog, 29-year-old pop-soul singer-songwriter Iman Jordan, better known for his stage name Mateo, publicly came out on his Facebook profile:
“So I’m going to talk to you like a friend. I’m gay. It’s been a hard thing for me to type and even harder to say. But it’s the truth. I’ve worried for years about what people would think, my career, and everything else I haven’t thought about. But not anymore. It’s crazy how we hide our light, because we are afraid it won’t shine bright enough. Over the years I’ve created so many faces and have done so many costume changes just to hide the simple fact that I am who I am. I’ve changed my name. I’ve worn clothes I didn’t like. I’ve written songs about my most meaningful relationships and changed the pronouns. All for what…..to meet my assumed expectations of others.
I have been slowly coming out to all my family and friends over the past couple years. It has been some of the hardest conversation I’ve had to have and the most freeing. And day after day, I peel a little bit more paint away….and I see more of me everyday. And it’s beautiful…worth more than gold.
To all those struggling with accepting yourself the way God made you…. take some time and look what’s underneath…. it’s brilliant. We cloud our light with feelings of worthlessness and shame. But that’s not who we are. Every one of us is divine perfection…no more playing it small….no more feeling less than. No more giving a shit what others see. All that matters is what you see….all that matter is being the freedom that your soul intended you to be. You are love…you are light…you are beautiful.
Thank you for listening and thank you for all your love and support through the years. Time to turn the page and start the next chapter.”
Both of their messages have been received with admiration and elation.
What a strange osmosis this horrific incident has commenced: LGBTQ artist-activists are breaking through the mainstream with positive messages and probing inquiries about progress, prejudice and human rights and the people are watching. In the wake of a Democratic filibuster on gun control, 24 hour news coverage of the incident and a call-to-arms around LGBTQ pride, perhaps the dawn of a new future is ahead… and maybe, just maybe, incidents like the one in Orlando will never happen again and society will truly give love to queer boys and girls with total abandon. Maybe, just maybe.