I was twelve when I first learned about homosexuality.
My family was on vacation in Provincetown, Massachusetts; we were visiting my uncles, Joel and Ray. The thing is, only Joel was a blood relation to my father.
In Provincetown, a Gay Mecca during the summer months, I saw men holding hands with men and women holding hands with women. Suddenly the idea both Joel and Ray were my dad’s brother didn’t hold much weight.
So, homosexuality was explained to me, and that was that. I shrugged, and everyone went on with their life.
Children are basically open-minded sponges waiting to be told what to think of the world around them. Since no one was telling me to stare, hate, or feel uncomfortable in Provincetown, I quickly surmised everything must be OK. The situation didn’t seem to be doing anyone or anything any harm, it was just people acting in a way I wasn’t overly familiar with.
Everywhere I looked, I saw acceptance. No one stared, no one judged, no one pointed fingers or accused. Everyone walked around as if the situation were entirely normal.
Which, in Provincetown, it was.
Which, in life, it should be.
Cut to my adult life.
I have a very stupid… I guess I’ll call him “friend,” although “acquaintance” or “someone I tolerate” might be more appropriate. He once asked quite angrily, “What if my son sees some man wearing a dress? How am I supposed to explain that?”
All I could think was, “Did you have to explain the first black person they saw?”
If he did, I imagine the conversation would be, “Well, some people are white, some are black, and there are a multitude of ethnicities across the planet.”
Or, to take that one further: some men wear dresses. Big whoop. Some men like men, most men like women. Some women like women, some people like vanilla, others like chocolate…
It really is that simple. Prejudice has to be taught; it is not an inherent condition.
Which means my stupid friend was exposing his own insecurities, not actually worrying about his child.
Which brings me to my point: following the Orlando massacre, everyone is talking about gun control, ISIS, homophobia, and radical Islam. Why is no one talking about Omar Mateen’s parents?
One week prior to the Orlando carnage, the Internet was aflame with outrage over rapist Brock Turner’s parents.
(Rightfully so, I might add.)
Why isn’t the same scrutiny happening here? It’s becoming fairly obvious Omar Mateen was a closeted homosexual, someone who couldn’t find acceptance at home or in his community. As one of my friends put it, “It was easier for him to be branded a member of ISIS than gay.”
Omar’s father, Mir Seddique, said Omar “saw two men kissing and got very angry.”
The only thing that would fuel such anger is a lifetime of being told it is wrong to be homosexual. That comes from upbringing. It could come from religion, or general familial intolerance.
So what made Omar angry about two men kissing? The fact they were comfortable enough to express their love freely while he could not? Maybe a fantasy that they were accepted by their families, where he would not be? The knowledge he couldn’t go to his father, Mir Seddique, and discuss sexual orientation with him?
While those questions are speculation, there is absolutely a direct connection between homophobia and his childhood. As stated: children are not inherently bigoted, it has to be taught. Omar had to be raised under a roof of prejudice.
In an interview following the shooting, Omar’s father said: “God himself will punish those involved in homosexuality, this is not for the servants.”
That is a frightening, and telling, quote.
You cannot prevent someone from hearing racial or homophobic slurs, but you can teach kids to understand not to use them. You can (and should) raise your kids to love people no matter their race, religion, or orientation. If he had been brought up on a foundation of acceptance, Omar wouldn’t have been filled with self-loathing. He wouldn’t have been a clear-cut example of “We hate in others what we see in ourselves.”
Bad parenting was to blame for rapist Brock Turner, and poor parenting has to take the blame for a homosexual man so torn up by his orientation he had to lash out in anger.
If Omar’s parents had told him: “We will love you no matter who you love,” forty-nine innocent people would still be alive.