“I don’t want to get beaten to death, stabbed and burnt alive,” a slight woman with long blond hair and a checked shirt says. “I want a gun to feel equal.”
She is a member of one of the United States’ fastest-growing gun clubs, the jauntily named Pink Pistols.
Two years after the massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, gay, lesbian and transgender Americans are nervous. According to the Human Rights Center (HRC), a US LGBTI advocacy group, 52 gay people were murdered in the US last year because of their sexuality, and 28 transgender people met the same fate.
In increasing numbers, they are fighting back by taking up arms.
It’s brought them into lock step with pro-gun groups that haven’t, historically, been all that welcoming of gay people.
Australian journalist Patrick Abboud traveled to the US to meet some of the new gun-toting gay people, for a report to be broadcast on Australian news show “The Feed” on Tuesday.
It was a sobering experience, he told News.com.au.
“There is one murder per week of a gay person purely because they’re gay, and that’s really horrifying. The level of homophobia and transphobia in the USA is out of control and some people told me a gun is the difference between living and dying.”
The Pink Pistols have been nicknamed the “gay NRA,” a reference to the controversial National Rifle Association that is a staunch proponent of pro-gun laws.
“I would never have thought I’d see the LGBTI community siding with incredibly conservative, right-wing, pro-gun advocates that have been publicly homophobic and transphobic — that didn’t make any sense,” Abboud explained.
But after meeting some of the gun club’s members, Abboud said, there was a real fear that had only been stoked by the country’s rabid political landscape.
Tuesday marks two years since the massacre at Pulse. Almost 50 people were gunned down by security guard Omar Mateen in a three-hour rampage.
Abboud spoke to Piper Smith, head of the Pink Pistols chapter in San Diego: “She decided to take up arms two days after Orlando because she said it was the 9/11 of [the] gay community. She couldn’t comprehend it and she genuinely didn’t want to go outside because she felt threatened just because of who she was.”
“There is a looming fear that if it can happen in Orlando, it can happen anywhere.”
The Pink Pistols now claim to have 45 regional divisions and 10,000 mostly LGBTI people on its books. They exist for a very simple reason: “We teach queers to shoot,” states the website.
“Gays that are armed and trained, don’t get bashed and killed,” said Jeff Bloovman, a nursing student and gun instructor who has become something of a poster boy for the Pink Pistols.
“Jeff breaks every stereotype,” said Abboud. “He’s super buff, super butch, the straightest gay man I have ever met and he has tons of guns in his home.”
“He spent a couple of hours showing me his guns. I couldn’t believe the number he keeps around him, I saw 35 guns, but he wouldn’t tell me how many he had.”
“Some people might say he’s a gun nut, but I spent several days with him and he’s the sweetest, gentlest, most loving guy you’d know. But he genuinely goes out every day and feels like he’s going to be attacked and his schtick is that if it happens, he’s ready.”
Abboud said the message he received was that the political divisions in US society were making gay people more fearful than they had been for some time. Others said the police could no longer be trusted to protect the LGBTI community or they took too long to react.
“Jeff said that the threat came from the culture and climate he is now living under as well as the [homophobic] things he has heard,” Abboud said.
“The HRC said there was more danger since Trump; that when the nation’s leader suggests or alludes to some minority communities being more disposable than others, that sends a message.”
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