Sophia Banks is a transgender chef living in Montreal
Shock and sadness overwhelm, even saying it over a week later: More than 100 LGBTQ people shot, 49 killed, in a queer club. The largest modern mass shooting in America.
More pain, as I read reports that the shooter may have been gay himself and struggling with internalized homophobia.
As a trans woman, I think about how often society, even supposed leaders, often fire up homophobic and transphobic sentiment among the public: How 17 U.S. states are suing the federal government for their right to discriminate against LGBTQ folks, especially trans women. How the Pope condemns same-sex love, says workers have the right to refuse gay marriage licences and calls the transition of trans people an abomination.
How does this hate coming from politicians, religious leaders and educators affect the public perception of queer and trans people? When elected leaders in the United States are labelling queer people as a danger? And when politicians rally around hateful rhetoric that queer and trans people are sinners and monsters?
Even in public bathrooms, hate and fear divide us.
On my first day as a chef in a new job, I was yelled at for being in the women's change rooms. I embarrassingly mumbled that I am a trans woman, and I walked out crying, gave the uniform to my boss and left.
I was so upset going home, thinking about how being visibly trans prevents people from having work and wondering what I was supposed to do when I can't even take a job where I need to use women's washrooms or change rooms. How this aspect of my life will never change until cis people realize we trans people exist and have rights, and that I am a woman even if I may not look like a cis woman.
It's trite – but the idea that we somehow all need to be the same divides us on the most base level.
The deep fear is that men will pretend to be trans women to access space. Trans women should be denied access to women's washrooms and spaces to protect cisgender women. This is punishing trans women because of what cisgender men might do.
That's misogyny. That's transmisogyny. It's projecting blame on a vulnerable group of women when it's men's hypothetical actions that are the hypothetical fear.
Even when the U.S. Supreme Court said love is love – and any two people can show their love with marriage, the intense opposition that followed was so telling.
It was only a matter of time until the hate spewing from so much of society pushed someone to an extreme. How could it not when so many leaders say it's okay to hate people, call for trans people to be exiled, and some – like the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States – call for violence among followers who disagree? The idea that differences – in sexuality, in religion, in political views – are to be battled, not embraced.
Of course, in Canada, our government has just passed a bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against trans people – which I support fully.
But what if love and acceptance of others cannot be legislated? Would the Orlando shooter still have killed those people, dancing young and free, if the state representatives had embraced same-sex marriage and protection of its trans community?
If we can't legislate hate away, how do we bring in more love?
More cis gender and straight people need to be actively involved in denouncing homophobia and transphobia. Call it out and educate when you hear hate in the workplace. Get involved when schools prevent young trans kids from playing sports or using washrooms like their peers do.
"Love wins" is too easy to just say as a feel-good solution that does not actually solve anything.
People need to take action, stand up against bigotry and stand with the people they claim to care for and support.