The rundown on Anchorage and Pulse

Want to know what’s catching this queer eye in news and politics? Here’s my take on some of the most hotly-debated issues crowding my Twitter feed over this past week.

Have anything to add or an opinion to share? Sound off in the comments!

1. Bathroom bill defeated in Alaska
Voter’s in Anchorage (Alaska’s largest city) made history by narrowly defeating a transgender bathroom ban on Friday, April 6th. Proposition 1–a measure that would have forced transgender people to use bathrooms corresponding to their assigned sex at birth–failed to pass by a six-point margin (53-47).

Click on this photo to view a YouTube report on Alaska’s trans community.

Conservative Christian groups, such as the Family Foundation and Liberty Counsel, have been the loudest proponents of such laws, couching their discriminatory language under the guise of “protecting women and children from sexual predators.” Nico Lang, one of my favorite journalists covering LGBT issues, exposes just how ridiculous and twisted this line of thinking is in a moving piece about anti-trans violence and the lack of justice for trans victims in our legal system.

It is only within the logic of a transphobic and sexist culture that the victimizers are able to paint themselves as victims. The fact that a majority of voters in Anchorage–a city of nearly 300,000 residents in a red state–saw through this cynical ploy and landed on the right side of history gives me a reason, however cautiously, to feel optimistic.

(For those out there who want to get more educated on trans issues, this Vox article is a great place to start.)


2. Wife of Pulse Nightclub shooter acquitted
A lot of you may remember that in the aftermath of the tragic mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, there were many reports claiming the shooter, Omar Mateen, had been spotted on gay dating apps and had frequented the club prior to the attack.

Following the acquittal on March 30th of his widow, Noor Salman–who was on trial for aiding and abetting her husband–several left-leaning media reports have recast the massacre as a random act of terrorism rather than a calculated and homophobic hate crime. Salman’s defense attorneys presented evidence at trial that Mateen had abused, raped, and threatened her over the course of their marriage, and argued that her statement to the FBI–claiming Mateen had specifically targeted Pulse nightclub–was, in fact, a false and coerced confession.

Articles appearing in the Huffington Post, The New Yorker, and a long list of other left-leaning media outlets, have been swift to come to Salman’s defense. A key pillar of her attorney’s closing argument, one which has been taken at face value by journalists, is that Mateen was not a closeted gay man and his crime was not motivated by anti-gay sentiment.

noor salman
Noor Salman and Omar Mateen.

While I agree that the evidence for prosecuting Salman appeared insufficient, I am dismayed by the left’s complicity in straight-washing the entire story. For LGBT people who come forward to authorities–whether the FBI or local police–it is all too common that our testimonies are written off, discredited, or in the worst of cases, ignored altogether. The media’s need to chalk anti-LGBT crimes up to anything other than hatred, while also common, is nonetheless disturbing.

Why can’t the Orlando shooting be a hate crime and Salman be an innocent victim of her husband’s domestic violence? Why must media narratives always be portrayed in either/or terms? This oversimplified characterization may make for an attention-grabbing headline, but rarely serves the larger purpose of uncovering the truth.


2 thoughts on “The rundown on Anchorage and Pulse

  1. The new Roseanne show is pretty interesting. It’s a little impressive that they’re showing family members with diametrically opposing political views that must get along. I can relate to that and I imagine others can too. Despite that, I don’t like the idea of normalizing hateful politics. It makes me uncomfortable that Roseanne is a little charming. I agree that it feels like a distraction and I’d rather not support that.

    1. I was a fan of the original as a kid and genuinely liked what I saw of the reboot, but I find it difficult to give Roseanne (both character and person) props for “tolerating” a queer character, especially when she supports an administration that is so virulently against equality for queer people. I don’t think she should get a pass from us.

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