Guns and Gays: The Rise of the Second Amendment in LGBT Rights

With a Trump-era spike in homicides targeting queer people, is it time to discuss self-defense?

My gay brown ass hates confrontation and avoids conflict at all costs. My burger has mustard instead of mayo? No worries—I’ll deal with it! Someone standing in front of me in line decides to bring a few friends in just minutes before a show starts? Grrr, I hope my slight scowl says enough! A passive-aggressive coworker guilts me into working on a project when I’m clearly swamped? It’s okay—they’ll get me next time, right?

But what about a different scenario? An aggressive stranger sees me walking in a gay-friendly neighborhood and decides to express his blatant homophobia—first with “faggot,” then with fists. Or worse, as was the case in 2013 for New York City resident Mark Carson. What then, especially when it quickly becomes a matter of personal safety? Does the potential for danger force me to relinquish my penchant for peace in order to regain the feeling of safety that’s been stripped away?

That feeling of safety is relative to your identity, and it changes based on lived experiences and the precautions we take to feel secure, including armament. In a country where mass shootings are ridiculously prolific, we’ve reached a point where we’re forced to question the merits of gun ownership for anybody and everybody—despite pure intentions for some. Unfortunately, that’s what happens when violence permeates our culture and dictates how we function daily.

Now as someone originally from a quiet Texas town who has thankfully never been victimized, I don’t desire owning a gun whatsoever. Yup, a Texan who prefers guac over glocks—we do exist, y’all! Instead of packing a pistol to help myself feel safe, I, like most everyday Americans, try my best to control a few factors around me—like the company I’m with, the location I’m at and the timing in which I choose to be there. I have the blessing of almost always choosing my surroundings, and I’m afforded that privilege as a young professional living independently and somewhat comfortably in New York City. Compared to others who may share parts of my background as a queer person of color, it appears I’m in a great position when it comes to safety in my community, and I try to not take that for granted.
When and where are we, as LGBTQ people, most safe? Does legally arming myself with a gun exacerbate or alleviate the overall problem?
But how great of a position am I in, really? If anything, these past few years have definitely challenged how I approach going to the movies, attending Mass, or even dancing in the club, for fear of facing gunfire. Most LGBTQ folks are still grieving the loss of our 49 brothers and sisters killed at Pulse nightclub in Orlando two years ago. This month alone, someone shot into a Las Vegas trans bar, injuring a couple of patrons. Granted, I’m specifically talking about heavily-populated public places at the moment, but what about the scary situations that a good portion of LGBTQ people face daily in their quest for survival? Would carrying a gun have saved any of our fallen?

The scary truth is that being openly-LGBTQ is still a perilous act for many, particularly at a time when bigots, bound by the authority of the Second Amendment and Donald Trump’s rhetoric of making America great again, feel emboldened. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs states there was an astounding 86 percent spike in anti-LGBTQ homicides last year, a vast majority of which were ignored by the media according to a new Media Matters report. And I’ll bet that you and I know what the weapon of choice likely was for those murders.

It raises the question: When and where are we, as LGBTQ people, most safe? What should I do if I find myself in a precarious position? Does legally arming myself with a gun exacerbate or alleviate the overall problem, should one arise? Although I’m still unconvinced by the argument that a good guy with a gun is somehow the solution, we must accept there are indeed bad guys out there who are motivated by bias. That fact is causing members of our community to weigh their options, as they have had to do for years. As the queer group Pink Pistols says, “Pick on someone your own caliber.” Similar to how the Black Panthers took it upon themselves to embrace gun rights as a mean of protection, it looks like they’ve made up their minds. My scrawny behind has already made up mine: I’ll never use a gun as the ultimate period in a statement that says, “I won’t be your victim today.”

There are so many nuances to this gun debate when it involves the LGBTQ community, ranging from arming legitimately-concerned queer people to ensuring that deranged intolerant men aren’t packing heat. I’d venture to say that the National Rifle Association would strongly support one of those groups over the other. While speaking to three gay black men during my weekly SiriusXM Radio show earlier this month, one made it a point to say, “There’s a particular person that the NRA wants to have a gun, and it sure isn’t anyone in this room.” Another panelist said that even having to ask yourself if you need a gun to feel safe is proof that there’s an underlying issue that we, as a queer collective, face.

More so now, than ever before, I’m forced to recognize that one’s safety isn’t always guaranteed. What I do know for sure, though, is that mustard is still gross. 
Photo credit: Zamurovic Photography

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