Anyone who shot dead 49 people and wounded 53 others in a massacre at an LGBT nightclub would absolutely need to be counted among the worst homophobes of the last 50 years. For some, Omar Mateen is the inevitable outgrowth of all the worst elements of homophobia, found elsewhere on this list.
But Mateen is a complex product of a violent and bigoted world. He is seen as part terrorist, part hate. No one can be sure of how the killer learned such a twisted view, whether from the country he grew up in — the United States of America — or from foreign influence, or both.
Mateen’s own father alternately explained his son’s murder rampage in an LGBT nightclub as a reaction to seeing two men kiss in Miami, or as an example of ISIS warping his mind. Either way, Mateen’s homophobia isn’t in question. Either way, it was no accident that he chose LGBT people as his victims.
ISIS is infamous for throwing men it accuses of being gay off of roofs, in some cases with the crowd below waiting to stone that man to death if the drop doesn’t finish the job. ISIS has cheered the Orlando attack, even if the FBI says it never coordinated with Mateen on planning it.
The FBI said on Monday it’s still investigating accusations that Mateen himself might have secretly been gay or bisexual, following up on leads by several Florida men who said they’d seen Mateen on gay dating apps, or in the nightclub as long as several years earlier. Internalized homophobia has a long track record, one that’s wrought by violence. No one in the LGBT community would be too surprised to discover it had played a part.
What’s certain is Mateen has inspired the likes of Westboro Baptist Church and a handful of preachers like them to come out of hiding and declare their support for the death of LGBT people. No matter what motivated Mateen, praise for the murder of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people will always be like the fruit of his tree — and a moment for homophobia that has already marred our history books.