We're all Orlando now
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By Andrea Peyser
June 17, 2016

We're all Orlando now

Je suis Orlando.

On Sunday morning, we awoke to hell. Dead bodies lay strewn in and around the gay-friendly Orlando, Fla., nightclub Pulse.

Dying and injured souls were rushed to hospitals. Frantic relatives, friends, lovers and strangers were gripped with stomach-churning panic, praying — “Please God, don’t let this be real.’’

But it was.

Then at 7 a.m. Central Time, before all the victims were even counted, a vicious, apparently homophobic tweet hit cyberspace, piercing our collective hearts like shrapnel.

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows,’’ Texas Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick wrote, quoting from the Bible.

After the Twitterverse erupted in an angry uproar, Patrick’s reps fumfered that the message had been scheduled days earlier for release on Sunday, and was not meant as a commentary on the Orlando atrocities.

Patrick, a Republican, said he removed it “to stop the hateful comments and the misinformation being spread of God’s message to all of us — straight or gay.’’

“Straight or gay.’’ That says a lot.

Early Sunday, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old American-born Muslim devoted to ISIS, a self-hating monster who apparently tried to suppress his own gay desires with murder, shot to death 49 innocents and wounded 53 more, before being gunned down by police. But the deadliest mass shooting in US history had an unexpected effect.

It united all good people, homosexual and otherwise. We became as one.

There were ugly exceptions. A loathsome California church pastor said from the pulpit that more gays should have died. Anonymous threats to to homosexuals were spewed in New York City and California. But the vast majority of Americans and people throughout the world came together in shared revulsion over the senseless taking of human life.

After radical Islamists in Paris staged a bloodbath last year at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine, followed by an unimaginable spate of killings, people everywhere joined behind the slogan, “Je suis Charlie.’’ (I am Charlie.)

Now, Republicans, Democrats and all others are virtually waving rainbow LGBTQ pride flags.

I reached out to Williamson Henderson, founder and director of the New York City-based STONEWALL Rebellion Veterans’ Association, whose members sparked the modern gay civil-rights movement by resisting a police raid of the Greenwich Village Stonewall Inn gay bar in 1969. I asked him if he’s seen incidents of gay-bashing decrease.

“The answer is — absolutely yes,’’ says Henderson, who is gay.

On Monday, Henderson was among some 2,000 people who gathered at the Stonewall Inn to hold a vigil for the dead and wounded in Orlando.

But Henderson warns that ham-handed tactics employed by President Obama’s administration to force Americans to embrace transgender individuals — who anyway are making strides at winning respect — are causing a backlash.

“If a fat, bald guy from New Jersey thinks putting on cheap lipstick, a tacky dress and a bad wig makes him transgender, that is not a legitimate part of the gay community,’’ he says, while agreeing that going under the knife for sexual-reassignment surgery “takes a lot of guts.’’

My pal Richard Zimmerman, 57, a gay Los Angeles hairdresser, says he feels vulnerable with the hatred spewing on social media these days, but it has little to do with his sexuality. “I’m very aware if you’re a 55-year-old white man who lost his job in 2008, you’re voting Trump to blow up the system, rage against the machine,” he tells me.

At least The Donald vows to do whatever it takes to keep all Americans safe.

A record high 60 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, a 2015 Gallup poll revealed. This sets the US apart from Muslim-run countries, where the penalty for accused homosexuality is often death — by stoning, beheading or being flung from a building then stoned, as ISIS savages prefer.

We’re all Orlando now.

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