How the worst shooting in American history makes it clear that self-hate is as dangerous as social hate.

Two men kiss and 50 people die.

That's the disturbing basic equation of what happened in Orlando, where Omar Mateen committed the worst mass shooting in American history after he used an assault rifle to kill 49 people in a crowded nightclub called Pulse.

His own life was ended in a subsequent shootout with police, so we'll never know what his true motive behind the slaughter was. The best explanation we have, his father offered afterwards …

Mateen was angered after witnessing two men kissing. Not kissing him, just kissing near him.

The recent Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage was a huge step forward. In fact, gay people have won several major battles lately in the war against hate as the tide of public opinion turns from resistance to acceptance. But the droves of gay Americans who lost their lives in Orlando, for doing nothing more than sheerly existing, are a horrific reminder of the struggles our country’s LGBTQ population still continues to face. Despite our country’s earnest attempt at legal protection for queer people, it’s still not entirely safe to be gay here. There’s a rift between law and behavior, and it has to be addressed if we have any chance of evolving from our senselessly violent proto-human condition.

After all, you can regulate the living shit out of an issue, yet it won’t always protect the people you intend it to or prove the point you designed. Look no further than this example of Madison Harper, a trans woman we interviewed who was senselessly beaten in Walsenburg, despite Colorado's extra-strength anti-discrimination laws that were put in place to protect vulnerable communities from such attacks.

Yet, you know what else doesn't change behavior? Mass murder.

Killing gays won’t un-gay the gays. Just like killing 30 school children in Sandy Hook won’t solve your family problems, or shooting up a Planned Parenthood won’t stop people from having abortions (which, by they way, none of the women killed in that shooting were even there to have). Mass murder also don't change the behavior of politicians, who haven't budged on gun control, despite the massive surge in shootings over the past few years.

Instead, behavioral change has to come from not from the pressure or threat of violence, but from within. After all, science has proven that more often than not, we refuse to change our minds even though we know we're wrong. 

For Mateen, intense internal friction between right and wrong was fatal.

What do you do when you can’t win an argument through sound logic and rationale? You go physical. And when you can’t take on 50 people with your fists, you take them on with guns. Because you know you’re wrong. You’re on the losing side.

I wonder when people with murderous inclinations like Mateen will realize that bloodshed for a political, social or religious reason does not make them right. You can slaughter every last person on this planet for a cause, with whatever weapon you chose, and still be in the wrong. The values of intense hate and ignorance embodied by mass murderers aren’t arguments; they don’t make people think, “Hey! He might be on to something with that bloody massacre!” Nope; murders like the one in Orlando are desperate war cries of “I don’t understand" or "I need help." Not society doesn’t understand, not your parents and friends, you; the killer. You. You have a learning disability. You feel misunderstood. And you prove it through killing, which says nothing about the lives you take and everything about how you feel about yourself.

That brings us to a final takeaway on Orlando: Social rejection cuts deeper into people than we can imagine.

It's now come out that Mateen himself was gay, or at the very least questioning his attractions — yet he felt isolated and rejected by the community he was so conflicted about wanting to join.

This is according to his ex-wife, his profile on gay dating app Jack’d On, and an ex-classmate, who says Mateen asked him out.

The classmate declined.

“He just wanted to fit in and no one liked him,” the classmate said. “He was always socially awkward.”

Mateen was also regular at Pulse.

It’s easy to see Mateen as a jihadist with ties to terrorism, both because we’re programmed to blindly label criminal Muslims as such and because of his reported ties to terrorist organizations, but much harder to see him as someone seeking to belong.

When The Guardian’s David Shariatmadari interviewed psychologist Samuel Juni, he told him: “Running away and trying to get in touch are psychologically not contradictory … When you’re running, part of you is running from something that you would very much like to be in touch with but you can’t.”

This weekend's massacre may have been Mateen’s way of running away from the thing he most wanted.

Shariatmadari put it well when he wrote, "If a heady combination of shame and sexuality were part of what drove Mateen’s decisions that morning, how is that to be policed? How can we, to borrow the language of counter-terrorism, 'eradicate' the 'scourge' of internalized homophobia? Of a feeling that one’s desires are dirty and humiliating? You can’t easily make a homeland secure against self-loathing."

There’s no easy answer for how society can disentangle social rejection with murder. However, it’s sure as shit not emphasizing the differences between groups of people, then radicalizing them against each other like Donald Trump has tried to do in the wake of Orlando.

Legislating to protect people helps, but like it was said above, not always. Sometimes our personal beliefs just need to catch up to those of the legal system.

It’s a process that’s facilitated by diversity and understanding, by spending time around people who are different from us and through that, learning that as humans, we’re more far more alike than disparate. That's the most tried-and-true way to expand and evolve our views on sexuality and its relationship to religion … that process just takes time.

However time, thankfully, is something the LGBTQ community is familiar with. If anyone's prepared to take on the uphill battle of continuing to address our internalized attitudes towards alternative sexualities, it's a group of people who waited multiple decades for the human right to marry. Clearly, for the gay community, the fight isn't over, but by this point, they're well-trained (yet consistently non-violent) soldiers.

Any guess why you don’t see gay people shooting up churches, mosques, Hobby Lobbys and other places of hetero-habitation?

Name a mass murderer who’s killed in the name of heterophobia. We dare you.

It's because LGBTQ people don’t need to. They’re right. They’ve already won.

No one should have died in Orlando that night, but if there is any good to come of it, it’s the resounding and crystal clear message that the force of the LGBTQ community and their supporters cannot be stopped. Tragedies like Orlando band people together. They create solidarity. They make people fight harder.

Hopefully now, part of that fight will be addressing people's hate not just for others, but for themselves.

cover photo: Reuters