To Orlando, From Terry Milner

Terry Milner is a playwright, screenwriter, actor, and 2015 MFA graduate from NYU/Tisch. His plays have been produced and developed at The Collective NYC, Crashbox Theater, Playground at the Old Globe and Burning Coal Theatre.

Below is a Facebook post written by Terry, in response to the recent tragedy in Orlando, Florida.

June 13, 2016
10:29 AM

“Dispatch from a gay man, on holiday in the world’s largest Muslim country, in the days after the worst mass shooting in American history was perpetrated by a Muslim American against LGBT Americans.

I was raised in a moderate evangelical Christian household. Protestant, yes, and more or less evangelical, but not what one would call ‘radical’ or ‘extremist.’ I certainly wouldn’t have called it that. Growing up, I never would have thought of my church as extremist either. Because extremists belong to other religions, right? Not our own, right? And yet…

At some point, that church began teaching that I and all other LGBT people were sinful and going to hell. I listened as I was read bible stories in which God burned people like me alive by raining fire on them from above. I was taught that I was an ‘abomination’ before the Lord because I had sexual and romantic feelings for other males.

We were taught these things in the Southern Baptist Church, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. It was and is led by ‘Christians’ who, I now understand, were and are radical extremists. Christian extremists. Like other religious extremists—including Jews and Muslims—Radical Christianity teaches that LGBT people should be killed for who they are. It’s in the Bible, after all: the same set of texts which they teach is the inerrant ‘word of God.’ Not that they believe that consistently, but it’s a useful justification for their hate.

Now, some of those same Radical Christian Extremists—and the politicians who covet their support—want to use the killing and maiming of more than 100 of my brothers and sisters in Orlando to point fingers at Muslims. A kind of cynical triangulation that says, in effect, that I as a gay man should ally myself with the same religious bigots (and the politicians who cater to them) who have been condemning me to hell all my life against (make no mistake) another set of religious bigots whom they are too myopic to recognize as being motivated by the same hate, grounded not in the infinite love and compassion of the unknowable, but in the all-too-easily definable sicknesses of patriarchy, toxic masculinity, racism, xenophobia, homophobia and misogyny, all masquerading as faith in God.

Well, I refuse to do that. I refuse to be triangulated, not because of the Muslims in Orlando who lined up to donate blood to the people who were shot yesterday, nor because of the statements issued by Muslim leaders around the world condemning this man’s atrocities. No, I refuse to be baited into Islamophobia because I am someone who is gay and who tries to actually follow Christ. Who tries to forgive and understand and accept those who are different. Who understands that most of the mass murders of Americans by Americans have been perpetrated by ‘Christians.’ Who believes that those who seek to use the hate and anger of the victims of violence and oppression to gain political advantage, while openly plotting to undermine the very freedom and dignity those victims have sacrificed so much to obtain, commits a sin that may very well be unforgivable. And some of these monstrous people even have the infinite, shameless gall to suggest the solution is to get more guns into the hands of more Americans more easily. As if that were possible! How much easier can it be than it already is?

Ultimately all that matters right now is why this happened, and how it happened. The why seems to be coming clear: hate for LGBT people fueled and validated in some part by religious belief as well as all the pathologies I listed above. The how? An assault rifle, which is legal because the gun industry’s profits are more important to Republicans and some Democrats in Congress than innocent human lives. The hate has to be expunged from religious life by religious leaders in all faiths. If the leaders won’t lead, then the followers must demand change from within. As for the guns? It is time, I believe, for the country to literally STOP. I mean stop everything. Stop working. Stop playing. Stop buying or selling or doing anything else until assault weapons are BANNED. If the LGBT community has been late to join the effort, we have to take the lead now. We’ve done it before, we can do it now. Let’s ACT UP! We can join with all other people of goodwill and take weapons of mass destruction out of circulation without violating the Second Amendment. Most Americans agree. It’s not hard.

My dear brothers and sisters, we are powerful. We have friends. We are seasoned and battle tested, and we can do this. Those of us who are writers can and should dedicate ourselves to this effort. Others with talents for leadership, organizing, fundraising and advocacy should focus on this above all else. In another time, at another crisis point, a quote attributed to Plato once moved LGBT people into action: ‘An army of lovers cannot fail.’ We cannot fail unless we don’t act, and I mean to act. And to love.”

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