On All-American Men, Their Guns, And Our Unnamed Terroristic Threat

by Francisco-Luis White @FranciscoLWhite

We can and should control guns with overdue legislation to limit access, yes. It’s a no-brainer and most of us are ready to take whatever steps to ensure they’re not in the hands of cowards like Omar Mateen, Dylan Roof, Robert Lewis Dear, Christopher Harper-Mercer, or James Holmes. The list of mass shooters - all men and mostly white men - goes on and back for decades. The LA Times published a pretty thorough timeline of such incidents since 1984. While moving forward with gun control is a crucial part of the work necessary to prevent this from happening again, however, our focus has been almost solely on the gun and not on the men wielding them. Rather, our focus has been on controlling or somehow limiting access to weapons without addressing the progressive violence of fragile American masculinity. 50 queer folks were executed in what should have been their safe space to celebrate life and love. It happened because Mateen saw two men kissing.

It’s time we talk about the actual root cause and not just the method of what’s being reported as the deadliest mass murder in our history. Otherwise, we’re exacting additional violence on the queer and femme folks slain in what was not an isolated incident. To deny that this has everything to do with a toxic masculinity birthed by cis-hetero patriarchy - and its’ root in white supremacy - is violence. As easy as the media has made it to blame religious (namely Islamic) extremism, we recognize American hyper-masculinity as so fragile that it kills. It’s kills quite often. We’ve witnessed this so many times, actually, it’s indisputable fact. The massacre at Pulse is the just latest example of how deadly the construct of the American Man can actually be, one exceptionally brutal incident but one of many. Perceived threats to that construct have been consistently met with murderous resistance, as we’ve observed with the wave of trans murders nationwide.

At least 21 trans people were murdered in 2015 and we’re on track to at least match the death toll this year. The killers varied in race and religion, the methods and weapons varied as well, but the overwhelming majority of the victims were Black women who would not conform in the cis-hetero male gaze.

Every time I’ve been violently street harassed for being brazenly femme, men have been the perpetrators. Every time I’ve been physically assaulted, men have been the perpetrators. To be clear, not one of them has been Muslim. Every time I leave my apartment, non binary and queer as I am, my chances of not coming back are far too high and it has much less to do with guns than it does the men I’ll encounter that day. It’s not about the religion of these men but their performance of American masculinity as they understand it, which is inherently anti-femme and anti-queer. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt safe anywhere and I’m definitely not alone in that.

Social Media Takes The Conversation Beyond Guns

Taking the conversation to Twitter, I’ve found that more than ever people are ready to discuss how fragile and toxic masculinity comes into play. Men and women alike weighed in about how this tragedy should raise concern about much more than guns:

The Other Part of Our Necessary Work in Ending Domestic Terror

We have to hold men accountable like never before, for their violent misinterpretations of what it means to be a man in America. This part of our necessary work, in addition to a relentless push for strong gun control measures, requires us to create spaces where we can not only have candid conversations around gender but promote healthy and constructive ideals around masculinity.

We have to believe that, given the safe space and opportunity, men will examine themselves and opt to move differently when they know they can. The campus, the faith institution, and the home will all need to play their crucial roles in this, as it’s so clearly a matter of life and death. This is what the war on the domestic terror we’ve endured has to look like; it’s already begun with these conversations and we know - women, femmes, and queer folks especially - that we have no choice but to win.