Orlando shows overcoming intolerance is society’s responsibility
Written by brettapproved Inc. CEO Brett Heising, the following Op-Ed originally appeared in the New York Daily News on July 14, 2016.
Recently, LGBTQ New Yorkers, together with their friends, family and really, nearly an entire city, celebrated the steps their community has taken in terms of civil rights and societal acceptance during the city’s annual pride parade. While strides have been made what happened in Orlando is a stark reminder that progress can’t come fast enough.
The tragedy at Pulse is another example of evil lurking in plain sight and I’m sick of it. This coward pledges allegiance to terrorists but now authorities believe his killing spree was a hate crime all about power and control. Whatever law enforcement labels it, enough is enough.
I’m not a celebrity or someone with hundreds of thousands followers on social media who can exert influence with a single tweet. I’m just the CEO of a travel startup that helps people with physical disabilities travel confidently, who cares what I think? Then I remembered something my friend Angela Hughey told me once and I knew I had a responsibility to share my thoughts.
The co-founder and president of Phoenix, Arizona-based ONE Community – a member-based coalition of socially responsible businesses, organizations and individuals who support diversity, inclusion and equality for all Arizonans – Angela said that when combined, people with physical disabilities and the LGBTQ community equates to one in four Valley residents.
That stat really made me stop and think. This is my fight because well before my time pioneers in the disability rights movement like Ed Roberts made the life I live possible.
Land of gun violence
Visit gaycities.com and you’ll discover that there are approximately 120 gay/gay-friendly clubs listed on the site in New York City. I bring this up because being more than 1,000 miles south of Manhattan, Orlando seems like it’s a world away but violence can find us anywhere and it has. Since May of 2015 mass shootings have occurred in San Bernardino, California; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Charleston, South Carolina and Garland, Texas.
Domestic terrorism, hate-crimes, whatever we label these senseless acts of violence they have one common denominator: Intolerance.
Guns are an integral part of the equation too but progress is painstakingly slow on that front. Despite the amazing work being done by Everytown for Gun Safety, the NRA funds too many campaigns throughout all levels of government for anything substantive to occur regarding gun control anytime soon.
If former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords getting shot in the head at point-blank-range while talking with constituents in 2011 at a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona doesn’t move our elected officials to examine the issue of gun control, nothing will – including a courageous sit-in by House Democrats – and it’s a shame.
Deeper than gun ownership
We owe it to every victim of gun violence in this country to examine what happened in Orlando through a different lens. So here it goes: Why are we as a society so intolerant of anyone who looks, thinks or acts differently?
I experience this first-hand as someone living with a physical disability. Whether they admit it or not, the fact that I navigate the world differently makes some people uneasy. I always do everything I can to make people comfortable. But if I’m being totally honest, there are days when feeling completely ignored by and isolated from the world around me is infuriating.
I haven’t spoken to my friends who are LGBTQ about this, but I suspect they deal with some of the same issues people with physical disabilities do. Constantly being judged and having to explain why you are the way you are, is exhausting.
Don’t get me wrong, I love talking to people but I can’t wait for the day when being in a chair doesn’t require an explanation. I can only imagine how exhausting it must be to constantly defend your sexual orientation or gender identity.
Society has come a long way but make no mistake, quelling intolerance is our responsibility. Remember that no matter where you are on the physical ability spectrum, no matter who you love or how you live, we’re in this together. And when we stand united, intolerance doesn’t stand a chance.
This column is dedicated to: Stanley Almodovar III; Amanda Alvear; Oscar A Aracena-Montero; Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala; Antonio Davon Brown; Darryl Roman Burt II; Angel L. Candelario-Padro; Juan Chevez-Martinez; Luis Daniel Conde; Cory James Connell; Tevin Eugene Crosby; Deonka Deidra Drayton; Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez; Leroy Valentin Fernandez; Mercedez Marisol Flores; Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz; Juan Ramon Guerrero; Paul Terrell Henry; Frank Hernandez; Miguel Angel Honorato; Javier Jorge-Reyes; Jason Benjamin Josaphat; Eddie Jamoldroy Justice; Anthony Luis Laureanodisla; Christopher Andrew Leinonen; Alejandro Barrios Martinez; Brenda Lee Marquez McCool; Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez; Kimberly Morris; Akyra Monet Murray; Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo; Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez; Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera; Joel Rayon Paniagua; Jean Carlos Mendez Perez; Enrique L. Rios, Jr.; Jean C. Nives- Rodriguez; Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado; Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz; Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan; Edward Sotomayor Jr.; Shane Evan Tomlinson; Martin Benitez- Torres; Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega; Juan P. Rivera Velazquez; Luis S. Vielma; Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez; Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon and Jerald Arthur Wright. May each of you rest in peace.