Was the gunman who killed 49 people at an Orlando nightclub gay?
There are reports that Omar Mateen had been to the nightclub multiple times and had used gay dating apps to communicate with other men.
Mateen’s ex-wife told SBT (Brazilian Television System) via her fiancé, that Mateen “had gay tendencies” and that his own father “called him gay, several times.”
Mateen’s father, Seddique Mateen, told CNN, “I don’t feel, based on what we know now, that he was, I didn’t know that he had that habit.”
That raises the question – did internalized homophobia lead to the horrific shooting at Pulse nightclub?
“We have a need for simple answers to some very complex issues,” said Lynann Butler, a licensed professional counselor and a professor at Metro State University, “I don’t know if we’ll ever have all the facts behind this.”
Butler added, “It could be that it was a perfect storm between a mental health issue, internalized homophobia and being radicalized by a religious extremist group. We may never know, but it may have been a combination of all those things that led to this tragedy.”
Butler described homophobia as all the negative messages that society puts on people.
“The whole fire and brimstone thing,” she said.
She said Internalized homophobia is when someone believes the messages they got at home, in their house of faith, maybe on the playground and they believe those messages.
“As they start to develop their sexual orientation, they might recognize, ‘wait a minute, if I’m gay or lesbian, maybe all of those messages apply to me,’” she said. “So they internalize some of that.”
She told Denver7 that people have different ways of coping with that.
“Some people overachieve,” she said. “Some people pretend to be straight and get married and have kids and live the life they’re supposed to be leading. There is certainly no excuse for what happened here, but perhaps that was one dynamic.”
The professor said there are many people who initially struggle with being gay.
“They often start in denial,” she said, “and figuring out if this is me, what it means for relationships, for my family, for my job… and in end stages, with acceptance of who they are.”
She said it’s more difficult for people from different ethnic backgrounds.
“There’s a double stigma,” she said. “If you are in a minority community, you’re already being watched, stigmatized and stereotyped. If there is a secondary intersection of oppression (being gay) it makes it much more difficult for the community to assimilate into dominant culture, to be accepted by the mainstream. So there is a lot of homophobia within minority groups.”
When asked if forensic psychologists will ever be able to determine why Mateen did what he did, Butler said, "I don't know if we'll ever know, but perhaps if we explore some of his internet connections and find out who was influencing him, maybe that would be helpful."
She said we "shouldn't be too quick to say this is a Muslim agenda because there are lots of other religions that have been anti-gay in the past as well."
She said not all Muslims are anti-gay and not all Christians are anti-gay.
"I want to be careful that we don't paint this with too broad a brush," she said. "I don't know if we have a simple answer as to why any of these tragedies occur."