Orlando Massacre: Omar Mateen's Apparent Homosexuality and The Real Religious Roots of Gay Hate

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[Speaking Truth To Power]

Ever since the Orlando mass murder of 49 people from the LGBTQ community, the media and some in politics have focused on murderer Omar Mateen’s Islamic background, and whether he was “radicalized,” as the source of the hatred that led him to commit these heinous acts.

Yet that narrative seems too simplistic because we know homosexual hatred is not the exclusive province of Islamic extremists—and there exists evidence Mateen may well have been a conflicted closeted gay man whose main motivation probably was to kill gay people who he felt rejected him.

Given the fact that most people are not comfortable honestly speaking about why they truly hate homosexuals, is this why we prefer saying Mateen's atrocity was perpetrated because of Islamic extremism?

Omar Mateen’s assault on Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub is one of the worst crimes of mass murder in America’s history.

Besides the 49 killed, he wounded another 53 people in his deadly assault. The murders have reignited the debate about gun control spearheaded by Democrats and U.S. Senator Chris Murphy led a recent filibuster to force Congress to take up legislation on the matter of background checks, gun show loopholes and assault weapons.

Sadly though, the debate regarding the motives for these killings have been largely relegated to stories linking Mateen's rampage to his supposed Islamic radicalization.

Because Mateen posted rantings on social media about America’s foreign policy in places like Afghanistan—where his parents are from—and made statements about his supposed love for ISIL, Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda (even though these groups are rivals), the investigation is focusing mostly on the Islamic terror angle.

Why isn’t the evidence that shows Mateen was in all likelihood, a closeted gay man being looked at more closely?

In the initial days, after these brutal murders, we’re told Mateen’s visits to Pulse were probably done so he could case the club.

However, the frequency of his visits—some say over years—point to another motivation. Some who patronized the Pulse said he was there fairly often. Would someone who supposedly hated homosexuals so much really visit a gay club so frequently?

There also seems a racist pattern to the killing. Why did he spare several Black people trapped in the bathroom at Pulse? If he hates gays generally why is he sparing some gays?

Was this attack on “Latin Night” also just a coincidence?
There is a very good chance that not only was Mateen a gay man—but that he had a preference for gay Latinos in particular. Most of the victims were Latino—and 23 were Puerto Ricans. Will evidence eventually surface that his really problem was striking out with Latino men?

Reportedly, one of Mateen’s former classmates said Mateen once tried to pick him up. According to this classmate—who didn’t want his name disclosed—Mateen “just wanted to fit in and no one liked him. He was socially awkward.”

Several gay men are now on record reporting that Mateen tried to pick them up on gay dating sites. Some of these men have also said they rebuffed his attempts because they thought there was something odd about him. One Latino male—interviewed on the MSNBC’s Chris Hayes “All In” show—characterized him as being “creepy,” and said he warned other friends about Mateen.

Instead of Islamic terrorism, could this mass murder really be about a closeted gay man lashing out at those who rejected his advances?

It wouldn’t be the first time a gay man has engaged in killing other gay men. In 1997, gay serial killer Andrew Cunanan murdered at least five people, before committing suicide—his last known victim being fashion designer Gianni Versace.

One year before this, another gay serial killer Herb Baumeister committed suicide to escape facing justice for the 11 dead men who were found buried on his “Fox Hollow Farm” property in Indiana.

Baumeister was also suspected of committing multiple other murders in the Indiana and Ohio areas. A married man with wife and children, Baumeister frequented gay bars for victims using the alias “Brian Smart.”

Several years before Baumeister, in 1991, one of America’s most infamous serial killers became known to the world: Jeffrey Dahmer. Known for killing at least 17 males, Dahmer was killed in prison in 1994 by a Black inmate. Many of Dahmer’s victims—including several Black males—were picked up in gay bars or lured by the prospect of making money by posing for pictures.

Is there an element of self-hate that motivates some gay men to kill other gay men? Assuming there is, could that hate come from the same source as the hate heterosexuals have for homosexuals?

Whether or not Omar Mateen was a closeted gay man is yet to be conclusively confirmed. However, the more important question is: where does the widespread hate for homosexuals come from?

If we’re honest with ourselves we have to admit this: it roots lie in extreme religious dogmatism.

For many in media and politics—like xenophobic, racist Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump—there is more comfort in discussing this massacre in terms of Islamic terrorism.

But are Muslims any more homophobic than Christians? So-called “Christian conservatives” have done much to ostracize homosexuals using right-wing politics.

Across America, gay people are victimized and killed with regularity—largely, by non-Muslims in a predominantly Christian country.

Islam is one of the three Abrahamic faiths, and as such much of its ideology is connected to Christianity and Judaism. Most of us who were raised Christian know we’ve been taught by ministers and pastors that homosexuality is an ungodly sin. The idea Muslims are somehow peculiarly more homophobic than Christians just isn’t true.

Right after these murders, Sacramento Pastor Roger Jimenez, in a sermon, said this of homosexuals: “I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put a firing squad in front of them, and blow their brains out.”

The Catholic Church condemns homosexuality. While church leaders denounce homosexuality they somehow seem to have a high tolerance for pedophile preachers in their midst who sexually molest and rape boys. Ministers like Atlanta Rev. Eddie Long and Colorado Rev. Ted Haggard who preached fire and damnation against gays have been caught up in homosexual scandals.

There is another cautionary tale here: some of those who’ve rabidly railed against homosexuality ended up having gay children. That was the case with Dallas Pastor T.D, Jakes, whose gay son was arrested in a gay sex sting in 2009.

But the irony of ironies here is: most Christians who were taught to hate homosexuals were never told that King James—whose 1611 Bible is the one most used by Christians—was himself a homosexual. The evidence of King James’ homosexuality is extensive. Many of his lovers are known and include: Esme` Stuart, Robert Carr, and George Villiers the “Duke of Buckingham.”

Some even called King James “Queen James.”

Ultimately, it will be up to people of all backgrounds, and faiths, to think thoughtfully before following ministers, rabbis, imams and preachers who tell us god favors murdering homosexuals—who represent part of the human family of creation.

Biology—not theology—represents a better method of understanding the many mysteries of sex, in all it facets.

In the end the important question isn’t whether one accepts homosexuality. The essential question we must answer is: don’t homosexuals have human rights to live their lives as they see fit without having to face violence and murder?
If we’re enlightened people, the answer is obvious.

Colin Benjamin's column on the 2015 massacre by Dylan Roof in South Carolina won first prize for best editorial/commentary at the Ippies 2016 Award hosted by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

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