''As a gay Arab, I bemoan having a "gay identity" imposed on me by necessity in order to explain this part of my existence. I was walking in Logan Circle, DC the day after the attack and saw a young man lean over and peck his girlfriend on the cheek. How sweet, I thought, and how sad. He will never face judgment. His choice to kiss his girlfriend will never be turned into a national media circus, or become the subject of countless venomous religious sermons and toxic political debates. He is not strung up by society and forced to explain what is the most basic of human behaviour: affection, love.
So many of the victims were young gay men, one was 19. I can't help but think of my own experiences as a late teen, struggling to overcome homophobia at home, at school, at work, on the street. The gay clubs and bars were my only sanctuary where I felt free, where no one cursed, or ridiculed, or judged, or asked.
That was the same for a lot of us. I didn't feel "gay" or "queer" at a gay club, that's a label imposed on me by a society that seeks to differentiate us. I was "free" at a gay club, we all were. It was our escape. That sanctuary was violated in Orlando, and the space where we thought we were safe from judgment and bigotry was invaded.
I hope we arrive at a day where gay venues aren't required, where we don't feel the need to crowd ourselves in a dance club to escape bigotry. But, sadly, we're a long way off. This was homophobia in its ugliest form, and the ensuing conversation cannot overlook that.
Marriage equality is not the end of the struggle. We will have extinguished homophobia for good when the questions and judgment cease: when I know longer have to refer to myself or be referred to as a "gay" man. Stop asking, stop judging, stop hating.