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Watching the news on Sunday…

Daughter: Dad what happened?!

Me: Some man walked into a gay bar and started shooting.

Daughter: Why?!!

Me: Probably because his religion taught him to disrespect and be disgusted by gay people.

Daughter: So he’s Mormon?

(crickets…pick my jaw up from floor)

Me: …No, but many gays have died because of what Mormons teach about gays. This appears to be a Muslim terrorist.


To provide some context for that conversation, I don’t talk much about Mormonism with my kids, much less how it treats gays. Last November was the first and  last time I remember having any type of discussion about it. This dialogue above was entirely unsolicited. It was a window into the experience  of a teenage girl who has her own mind and her own observation skills.

She attends church and all the accompanying activities with her mother. With me she does not. How the two worlds intersect is her own interpretation.

But, if any of you doubt that I was speaking accurately in my response to her, here are a few facts… Mama Dragons, a group of Mormon mothers have documented 30+ suicides directly related to Mormons changing their policy towards gays since Nov. 2015.

The most well known murder of a young gay man, Matthew Shepard was committed by a pair of fellows, one of which was Mormon.

And with regards to terrorism, the worse terrorist attack on American soil before 9/11/2001 was committed by a band of Mormons in Southern Utah in 1857… also on September 11 ironically. 100-140 non Mormons were slaughtered at Mountain Meadows by Mormons who blamed it on the local Indians.

I’m not trying to say Mormons are somehow involved in this tragedy or that today’s Mormon is capable of the type of violence we saw in Orlando. But if a 12 year old Mormon girl can see the connection, surely we can agree that the  environment fostered in Mormonism today towards gays is the beginning of something that festers into Orlando.

The fact that recent revelations show that the killer had been frequenting that bar and using gay dating apps convinces me even more that “horrifying violence starts as embers”

It appears to follow a path like this:

Fundamental religious teachings +human nature =>religious guilt => personal shame => the feeling that there’s no way out =>anger or outrage =>Acting out.

There have been various responses to the Orlando tragedy in blogs and on Facebook. Some of them discuss ISIS, Islam, gun legislation or lack thereof, love for others or lack thereof. Some seem to argue that we should forget all those details and that there’s just one lesson to be learned…Love.


I agree with that sentiment but I don’t think it occurs at the expense of dismissing all the facts in a tragedy like this. We need to know if it was a closeted, repressed gay man, who had been recruited by religious Islamic fundamentalists,  who then resolved to attack  others with an assault rifle, others who represented what he most hated about himself. That’s a lot of assumptions in that run-on sentence there I know, but that’s the way it’s shaping up at this point in time. We need to know all that because while you may not have been the shooter you may

  • Hold inflexible religious views towards homosexuals (even if you are one)
  • Think that a citizen needs easy access to an assault weapon
  • Hold other views that aren’t violent in and of themselves but that lack compassion, or tolerance
  • Have no interest in your opinion being challenged

Pretending it wasn’t about gays, or guns, or violent religion is playing into the homophobia, or the recklessness, or the fanaticism.

I actually had someone I grew up with say that he’d “never heard a lesson in a Mormon church, taught about gays.”

If you are a current Mormon claiming to have never heard a lesson taught about gays you either need to wake up in meetings, you are completely clueless, or you are a liar. Just a simple Google search on homosexuality and Boyd K Packer, Spencer W Kimball, Prop 8 or Mormons will do the trick. If you don’t think those things are Orlando in embryo then you are part of the problem.

The religious fanaticism witnessed last weekend occurs in all religions as an observant pre-teen can figure out all on her own.


What does make it better is the growth that comes from understanding the problem mixed with love. I’ve fortunately heard and read those type of comments too. Lt Gov. Cox of Utah gave a somber, repentant speech acknowledging that he hasn’t always shown kindness and acceptance and that that’s part of the problem. I respect that and forgive him.

My freshman college roommate gave a beautiful speech about love in times like this when accepting an award from The Trevor Project:

One of my favorite poets WH Auden wrote, “We must love one another or die” and that is what we affirm tonight. The brave kids that call for help and the adults who answer that call with love.

The horrifying violence starts as embers. In the last 6 months alone there have been over 106 anti-LGBT bills introduced in state legislatures. 34 States in all. Local control bills, anti-trans bills and the absurdly titled Religious Freedom bills.

We must love one another.

That’s the lens, the only lens. Not Red State Blue State. Not Federal Government versus State Government. No saying well that’s North Carolina or that’s Mississippi. No resting on the glory of being legally married.

Just as we would cover a baby with a blanket, we need to wrap all our kids everywhere in a loving embrace.

And that means making our world kinder and safer for them to come out to and join in.

So as we all leave tonight, let’s pledge to continue the project of Trevor – to keep our kids safe. Let’s pledge to share in the responsibility to fight every heinous bill everywhere, and to demand in word and deed respect, civility and fairness from our elected officials.

And let’s lead by example –

Let’s love one another.

Richie_Trevor Project

Harvey Fierstein presenting a Trevor Project award to Richie Jackson and Jordan Roth on June 13, 2016

What am I willing to do to change and grow and to show love?