Response to Community re: Lavender Issue 550 Editorial “Spirit of ’76 (A Coward Strikes Again)”

By Lavender June 30, 2016

Categories: Causes, Our Affairs


Response to Community re: Lavender Issue 550 Editorial “Spirit of ’76 (A Coward Strikes Again)

We sincerely thank those who wrote by email or comment for sharing their welcomed perspectives.

The poem quoted on the front cover of Lavender’s Issue 550 is called “Invictus.” The Victorian era verses were the inspiration used by a great man who stood up to the oppression against him because of who he was. He refused to yield no matter what was done to him: psychological torture, life in prison at hard labor, or even the threat of death. “Invictus” was a catalyst for Nelson Mandela and President Obama quoted the poem at his 2013 memorial service. The image of the “Spirit of ‘76” was chosen to evoke a memory of a time when this country worked to put the Constitution before any of the religious beliefs that the new inhabitants of this country brought with them. We want to remind people of the importance of the Constitution and the separation of Church and State again in the wake of this tragedy in Orlando.

Omar Mateen was torn internally between inculcated doctrine and natural sexual feelings. This inner conflict was entangled in deep religious roots, whether his or others. This case is far from the first to suggest a causal relationship between religious self-hatred and gay homicide. Minneapolis-based Center for Homicide Research is a volunteer-driven nonprofit that has seen cases of self-loathing individuals struggling with incompatible Christian teachings, and killing their own.

While his background was Muslim, Islam is not the only religious background that has taught intolerance regarding this community. And, we acknowledge that many changes are happening within religions to combat these intolerances today in 2016. But, consider that a number of the victims of the shooting were from Puerto Rico, which is largely still intolerant of same-sex marriage, with the Pew Research Center citing 55 percent of Puerto Rico to oppose same-sex marriage, being 72 percent of Protestants and 45 percent of Catholics. Many of the 49 victims had experienced their own homeland’s religious intolerance before one man’s conflicted ideas terminated their existence.

We are standing up for the 49 people who were murdered for who they are. A problem defined is half-solved. We acknowledge the role religious beliefs can play in fomenting internalized homophobia. We see it in how people are raised as being considered sinners simply for being who they are to legislators continuing to fight against equal rights for this community through their “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts.” It is no wonder that this community is targeted.

Editorial Board

11 Responses to Response to Community re: Lavender Issue 550 Editorial “Spirit of ’76 (A Coward Strikes Again)”

  1. Eric Highers says:

    I am initially upset, and then not, half expecting this to come from folks who can’t and don’t want to acknowledge the ways they are upholding a colonial, xenophobic, nationalists, and white supremacist way of thinking. It is revealing of an absence of critical thought. Then again, that seems to be plenty absent these days.

    It really begs the question, as much of the responses around Orlando have: is there even an LGBTQ community any more? Does LGBTQ now just stand in for “white gay people”?.

    Its also, yet again, indicative of how Orlando is serving an unrepentant nationalist fervor. From the picture in the article to the reference to the “Constitution,” and political liberties, attention to Islam and their description of cab drivers, all of that functions and serves as dogwhistles for the deep fear of “the terrorist” other, the image we are fed constantly whenever we are made aware that the perpetrator of violence is not white. A simple equation could be drawn: The U.S. is good for white gays, everywhere else is bad, because religion. As if that actually underscores the violence people experience in their lives. Never mind how complicit the U.S. is in generating acts of violence, shame, and fear by destroying the places the very folks at the center of Orlando, Omar included, are from (and yes I am also referring to those who were born in the contiguous U.S. as well).

    This “response” is a patronizing, pretentious, and blatant refusal to take any accountability for reinforcing an all too familiar narrative. In their response, I’m being lectured to about how to properly “understand” this issue, while they refuse to acknowledge a broader historical context. You could have thrown me in some gay Tea Party website, and I probably would have found something similar. It almost feels like I just witnessed Caitlyn Jenner endorsing Donald Trump or something. Oh wait….

  2. Joshua Newville says:

    Lavender Media:

    Being the publisher a publication that speaks to, and represents, historically marginalized minorities, you have responsibilities that hundreds of readers think you failed in the “editorial” that you published in your Pride edition.

    After reading your response, it seems that you’re just doubling down on your argument that religion was the sole cause of this tragedy. That said, at least you seem to have subtly acknowledged that you initially failed to provide broader context to that argument (i.e., failing to expand the scope beyond Islam).

    The only example you used related to one part of a 2007 airport cab licensing controversy. For starters, that example makes no absolutely no sense in the context of your ill-informed First Amendment argument; but, putting that aside, the fact that you only used an example involving Islam against the backdrop of this tragedy was irresponsible and simpleminded. You built walls instead of working to tear them down. You oversimplified instead of grappling with nuance and complexity.

    We live in a world with nearly two billion Muslims–the vast majority of whom are peaceful and loving people. Just like there have been horrendous acts committed in the name of Christianity and other religions, the fact that there are a small number of people lashing out in the name of Islam does not mean it is wise to target an entire religion (or all religions in general). In the Twin Cities specifically, we live amidst one of the largest concentrations of Muslims in America.

    As another minority community within that metro, it is important for those of us in the LGBT community to be careful that we not stoke the common flames of discrimination against another underrepresented group. Just this morning, two Muslim men were shot in Minneapolis. The shooter made disparaging remarks about Islam before firing on them. That should burden the hearts of every LGBT community member, particularly against the backdrop of Orlando.

    But, purposeful or not, your editorial suggested that Islam in particular was to blame for Orlando. That’s why people are upset with what you wrote. And, I suspect that’s why you labored to use examples involving Christianity in this response.

    In any event, you also fail to understand that shooting deaths resulting from hatred can be multifaceted and nuanced. You fail to account for issues such as nationalism, atmospheric violence, socioeconomic stressors, mental illness, social radicalization regardless of religion, and more. And, you suggest that it’s playing politics to say that access to guns was a factor. Frankly, I’d say you’re playing politics by categorically dismissing it as a contributing factor.

    I hope you’ll take the wave of criticism you’ve received in the past 24 hours more seriously than this response suggests you have.

    And, more importantly, I hope your readers know that there are a significant number of us–a majority, I hope–who don’t agree with your oversimplification. I know I speak for a good number when I say that we stand united, ready to tackle hatred and bigotry with the understanding that doing so requires more depth than a parking lot puddle.

  3. Alex Guerrero says:

    Great response, love it!

  4. John Medeiros says:

    This non-response is almost as pathetic as the initial editorial, so if this is Lavender’s way of apologizing to the community you can keep it. Seriously.

    Here are several things that went wrong with the initial editorial:

    1) Suggesting religion was the sole reason for the shootings;
    2) Offering the lone example of a Muslim cab driver to make some vague point about the First Amendment that in no way is legally sound or relevant to the issue at hand;
    3) Discrediting the role gun access had in the shootings;
    4) Failing to acknowledge the role of mental illness and societal pressures had in the shootings;
    5) Failing to grasp the myriad of reasons why the assailant was filled with enough hatred to carry out the events in Orlando.

    And these are just a few.

    What went wrong with your response is that your response acknowledges none of these.

    Here is what you need to know:

    The same day of the Orlando shootings, cities across the country held vigils, and Minneapolis was no exception. I’m not sure if you were there or not (I suspect you were not), but one of the speakers who came to mourn with us, and show his respect — and the respect of the community he represents — was the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (who, incidentally, was just awarded the Immigrant of Distinction Award for 2016 for his community-building work). This was the first time that group represented itself in front of such a large number LGBT community members. Further, in response to Orlando, a group of local LGBT Muslims and their allies joined forces and walked for the very first time in the Pride Parade. They walked just behind J-Pride (the Jewish LGBT contingent) as a symbol of their peace. This is the very first time in the history of the Twin Cities Pride Parade that the Parade included a Muslim contingent.

    The point is this: the local Muslim community is making great strides in bridging the gap between it and the LGBT community. Many of us in the LGBT community are trying to do the same. Lavender, as a publication that speaks to and on behalf of the LGBT community, has a responsibility to do this as well. Instead, your editorial and this non-response are building the very walls the rest of us are trying to take down.

    At the very best, your editorial and this response are irresponsible, judgmental, and over simplistic.

    At the very worst, they are hateful.

    Both are completely unacceptable.


  5. Pierre Tardif says:

    On this Canada Day, you may appreciate this 6/13/16 article published in French in Le Journal de Québec and Le Journal de Montréal by Richard Martineau, a Canadian columnist and radio host.

    I’m freely translating the gist of it:


    “It has nothing to do with religion”, said the father of the killer.

    Oh, really? What is this about? Politics, high cuisine, growing radishes?

    Watch how politicians behave in the upcoming days. They’ll move heaven and earth to avoid uttering the words “Islamic terrorism.”

    They’ll talk about a “tragedy”, a “catastrophe.” They’ll offer their moral support to families and the LGBT community.

    They’ll do everything, except pronounce the taboo word that starts with “i”.

    But no one will be fooled.

    We all know what is the ideology responsible for the massacre: radical Islam.

    This cancer grows within our communities.

    In Molenbeek, the Netherlands, the Seine-Saint-Denis suburb of Paris, and in some parts of London, the followers of this ideology don’t hide to preach hatred of the West. They do it out in the open.

    “People regularly try to convince me to do jihad in Syria or France”, said a French citizen of Arab origin to Figaro Magazine. At the Mosque I attend, many rejoiced the attacks on Charlie Hebdo.

    “Around the mosques , when exiting the prayers, many try to brainwash me saying that if I did not want to leave, I have to at least make it difficult for unbelievers…

    “If they meet unveiled or non-Muslim women on the street, they block the sidewalk to prevent them from passing, stare at them, and terrorize them…”

    But keep your mouth shut.

    Because useful idiots will proclaim that you are racist and Islamophobic.

    In the bearded man’s mind, gays are animals that must be slaughtered.

    Our tolerance of gays is proof that our society is decadent and perverse.

    Amsterdam Activist Bruce Bawer told me that most homophobic attacks were carried out by Muslims.

    “Complaints by homosexuals for physical or verbal violence have increased in the Netherlands from 600 in 2012 to 1,100 in 2013. Concerns have arisen in the country that is considered to be the most tolerant in Europe towards gays. In Amsterdam, homophobic attacks have grown in numbers each of the past 10 years.

    Some will claim that the man behind the massacre is a lone wolf.

    But what fed his hatred?

  6. John Medeiros says:

    Pierre, what is it? Religion? As you intitially claimed? Islam? As you initially claimed? Radicalism? As you now claim? You really need to stick with your argument.

    But more importantly, even after THREE swings, you still strike out.

    If you want to believe this that’s your choice. And if you want to write a letter to the editor of the Strib or Pioneer Press, please do. But you are using an instrument of our community — Lavender — as your private soapbox. That is NOT okay. The reason it is not okay is because as a community publication you have a responsibility to that community. You have failed in honoring that community and in doing so, you have caused severe harm to that community.

    As an advertiser in your publication I will take my business elsewhere.

  7. Joshua Newville says:

    So if i’m getting this right… the VP of a LGBT publication posted, as his response to overwhelming criticism, the ramblings of a Canadian radio host widely criticized for bigoted views towards Islam?

    Stephen and Pierre – Your lack of humility in the face of overwhelming dissent is breathtaking. I think it’s time advertisers are made aware.

  8. John Medeiros says:

    Wow. Just wow.

  9. Pierre Tardif says:

    John, the world would be a better place with more people, like you, who care about our community. I hope we can find common grounds on embracing a diversity of people and opinions. I understand you strongly disagree with the letter I wrote to the Editor. This is the second time that Lavender prints a letter I submitted. The Strib does it more often. Our community was targeted, and I think it’s important to denounce the common religious belief that homosexuality is wrong. There is nothing wrong with homosexuality. Cheers!

  10. Rachel Wilson Keener says:

    Lavender magazine, the times are changing.

    Soon the stuffy white men who fund you will peacefully pass and you will find yourself, doe-eyed, looking for your next niche. But where will you turn?

    To the ever-increasing population of beautiful brown queer people in the cities? Nope. Not anymore.

    What about our community’s diverse, and increasingly progressive religious communities? Probably not.

    I suggested you hold a recorder up to the voice you bring to LGBT Minnesotan’s and with as critical of an ear as you can muster, think about whether or not your response to this anti-Islamic, racist blunder meets the following criteria:

    1. Is it coming from a place of honest concern and understanding?
    2. Are you truly taking this community backlash as a means for self reflection?
    3. Are you putting yourself in a position to continue to call yourself a voice of, or advocate of the greater queer community in Minnesota?
    4. Is your response respectful?

    … you may want to re-write some things. Perhaps apologize.

  11. Jon Hartman says:

    Daily Kos picked up on the hate:

    Who’s next? Rachel Maddow? How much shame will it take for Lavender to (1) get some basic education around diversity, and (2) apologize for a clearly misguided editorial?

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