The former wife of the Orlando gunman, Omar Mateen, has told The New York Times that her ex-husband might have been gay and closeted, reinforcing reports that Mateen was a regular at Pulse nightclub and that he’d kept a profiles on gay dating apps like Grindr and Jack’d.
Mateen, who killed 49 people and injured 53 in the early hours of Sunday morning, was a frequent patron at Pulse according to several people interviewed by the Canadian Press. “Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself, and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent,” said Ty Smith, adding that he didn't believe Mateen could be enraged by the sight of two men kissing. “That’s straight-up crap,” he said. “He’s been around us. Some of those people did a little more than [kiss] outside the bar. ... He was partying with the people who supposedly drove him to do this?”
Smith's husband, Chris Callen, told The Canadian Press that Mateen had frequented Pulse for the last three years.
And 71-year-old Jim Van Horn, who lost three friends in the shooting, told the Associated Press that Mateen was a “regular” at the Pulse nightclub. “He was a homosexual and he was trying to pick up men,” he said. “He would walk up to them and then he would maybe put his arm round them or something ... That’s what people do at gay bars.” He added, “I think it’s possible that he was trying to deal with his inner demons, of trying to get rid of his anger of homosexuality.”
Meanwhile, two men have now come forward to claim having communicated with Mateen on gay dating apps. One, Kevin West, described meeting Mateen on the app Jack’d a year ago, and then again within the last three months. Another man, Cord Cedeno, said he'd seen Mateen at the bar in Pulse with a drink. “He was open with his picture on the sites; he was easy to recognize,” Cedeno told The Washington Post.
The revelations, if true, sow more confusion around Mateen's motives. Was he in Pulse because he wanted to kill LGBT people in particular, or because it was a place with which he was familiar? In the bathroom of the nightclub, where many of his victims died, Mateen talked a lot about Islamic State and Syria, but not at all about gay people, according to a survivor who gave his name to The New York Times only as Orlando.
Yet if he was gay or bisexual, Mateen was clearly not at peace with who he was. In a video interview posted to Facebook on Monday, Mateen's father, Seddique Mateen, expressed bewilderment at his son’s attack, only to then suggest that it was for “God [to] punish those involved in homosexuality.”
It’s the kind of language we hear from Bible-thumping pastors as often as from radical imams. How that culture played into the toxic stew of influences that drove Mateen to commit his apalling crime it may be too early to know, but the more details that emerge, the more complex this story becomes.