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Queer Patriots: Can We Believe in the American Dream After Orlando?

Flickr/Nathan Mac

We need to ask themselves if they are really part of the American dream—and what that even means anymore. 

We had just started chatting online. I told him I was a reporter. I mentioned how I had just spent the last week in Orlando, covering the shooting.

"I can't even get over how awful Orlando was," he messages me. "It's time to recognize that it's called radical Islamic terrorism."

I let the comment go, trying not to think about the huddled, crying masses I interviewed in that city. Blame was so far from their minds. They held themselves, they held their loved ones, they held strangers. They just embraced.

So I won't be getting a first date with the cute, tall, geeky engineer, but his message lingers in my head. Pride is over, and the calendar turns to July 4--Independence Day. The aftermath of Orlando leaves me wondering what a queer American--a queer patriot--looks like.

The United States turns another year older in a time when the very question of what this country is hangs in the balance. The deferred dreams of racists, homophobes, and xenophobes of every stripe have calcified into the candidacy of a Mr. Donald Trump. The deaths of dozens at Pulse--not to mention children in Newtown and Christians in South Carolina before that--cannot compel the most useless Congress in history to do anything on gun reform.

Since the war on terror began, religious and social groups have fallen prey to a short-sighted suspicion and hatred of American people just because of the color of their skin or the content of their prayers.

Is the LGBT movement next?

Like my online friend, LGBTs are more willing to buy into the American fear of the radical Islamist. They are arming themselves. Even Trump is reaching out to us directly, saying he would be better for gays after the Orlando tragedy because of his proposed ban on Muslim immigration into the U.S.

After Orlando, the Audre Lorde Project called out this anti-Muslim move as a "xenophobic stereotype that Muslim people and immigrants are more 'homophobic' and become 'radicalized' elsewhere."

"We reject this deliberately racist framing," the New York-based organization said in a statement. "Individual perpetrators are part of a much larger system of militarization and colonization. We recognize that terrorism is not imported; it is home grown in a culture that is deeply anti-black, anti-immigrant, and anti-queer."

There's a lot to unpack with that statement, but the truth is, the most nationalist sects of our country are now looking to LGBTs for allies in a ceaseless war against others. How we respond is more than a question for sociologists and political scientists; it's a question over our very soul.

Me, I don't buy it. I am happy of the privilege to live in the U.S. I am proud of those who defend this country. But at 25 years old, I am extremely lucky to be in this generation of queer Americans. I grew up just in time for my sexuality to be considered legal (2009), for my chance to defend my country openly if I choose (2010), for my hoped-for marriage to be legal (2015). If I'm lucky, I'll live to see this country guarantee me the basic rights to a job, a house, and a family of my own.

But to look at those stars and stripes come July 4 and say my pride in this country is full and complete just doesn't tell the whole story. And I bet many queer Americans would agree.

Black gay writer James Baldwin expressed the same doubts of inclusion in the American experiment during the civil rights movement: "It comes as a great shock around the age of 5, 6, or 7 to discover that the flag to which you have pledged allegiance, along with everybody else, has not pledged allegiance to you."

After Orlando, many so-called patriots are calling on us to lay hands on a flag and pledge our allegiance, despite a history of that same flag--that same promise of "all men created equal"--never including us. Until now, apparently--until an American Muslim killed 49 of us. Now we're good enough--as long as we hate just as they hate.

After 240 years of history, that's what this country has come to.

When Alexis de Tocqueville visited a young America in 1835, he warned of what democratic tyranny would look like.

"Tyranny in democratic republics does not proceed in the same way," he said. "It ignores the body and goes straight for the soul. You will remain among men, but you will forfeit your rights to humanity. When you approach your fellow creatures, they will shun you as one who is impure."

Sound familiar, queer Americans?

So this July 4, celebrate with family and friends. Grill, drink, laugh, shoot fireworks with young ones. Raise a toast to what this nation has accomplished through enlightenment and strife alike.

But don't look at that starry flag as a banner of war on men and women who, like you, have never fully shared in the American dream. Fight through the pain of Orlando and remember that our true patriotism lies first with each other.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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