Why Guys Like The Orlando Shooter Threaten My American Identity

Why Guys Like The Orlando Shooter Threaten My American Identity

These two identities are not mutually exclusive.

Around 1:58 a.m. on Sunday, June 12, a gunman entered Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, and killed 49 people, while injuring 53.

Meanwhile in Houston, Tex., I was on the second to last episode of "Gran Hotel," a show I had recently been binge watching. Unable to keep up with the intense plot twist, I paused to check my phone for any updates. To say that I was alarmed by the headlines devouring my feed would be the understatement of the year. I remember being heavy with sorrow, but even more restless because the identity of the shooter had not yet been revealed.

“Please don’t be Muslim, please don’t be Muslim, please don’t be Muslim,” was a repeating chant in my head. By next morning, the gunman had been identified as Omar Mateen, an American-born security guard who had apparently pledged allegiance to ISIS during his 911 call. Among the many emotions I felt upon discovering this, there was one unlike any other: fear.

It was not the same kind of fear felt before seeing the score of a test I know I failed, or fear felt when I find a roach that has wings. It was the kind of fear that causes me to empathize with a black man being pulled over by the police, with the sole woman in a board meeting full of men, and with gay people being told they will rot in hell. It was the fear of being attacked for who I am.

As I prepared for the same hatred and madness that ensued following the San Bernardino shooting and Paris attacks, I started questioning why I was required to defend myself and my devotion to this country in the first place. I am a Muslim. I am an American. These two identities are not mutually exclusive, and being one does not diminish the value of other.

I have spent countless hours convincing other Americans to go out and practice their democratic right to vote. I have family members who are doctors, teachers, accountants; people who are all Muslim and living perfectly normal American lives. And because Omar Mateen decided to hide his atrocious act under the guise of religion, I constantly worry about my loved ones paying that price.

Just this past Tuesday, a man named Richard Farris was arrested in Seattle for planning to attack a mosque during prayer. He possessed an AK-47 and street map of the mosque with the label of “too many targets to count.” Fortunately, while his plan was foiled, there are countless others who would not hesitate to act upon their vicious desires. Particularly in times like these, when people like Trump are employing hateful rhetoric, it doesn’t take much for an individual to think that they have the right to harass someone because they appear “un-American.”

Am I sorry that 49 innocent people lost their lives at the hands of a twisted man? Definitely, I cannot even begin to fathom how the families are coping with this tragic loss and what that community is facing. Are hundreds of millions of real Muslims around the world devastated because of this? Absolutely; just in Orlando, tons of Muslims donated blood for the injured despite the fact they were fasting. It was extremely hot outside, yet women in hijab and fully covered bodies, distributed water and food to those standing in long lines. Just one fundraiser by Muslims in Northeast alone has raised over $70,000 for the victims. This, this is the religion that I believe in, and these are the American Muslims that are scorned and put to test when a monster with a gun gets his way.

I am proud of my religion, and I am proud of my country. If anyone believes that my love for these two cannot coexist, then I am sorry that you are incapable of understanding that humans have the power to hold a lot more love than hate.

Cover Image Credit: CNN

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I Went To "The Bachelor" Auditions

And here's why you won’t be seeing me on TV.

It’s finally time to admit my guilty pleasure: I have always been a huge fan of The Bachelor.

I can readily admit that I’ve been a part of Bachelor fantasy leagues, watch parties, solo watching — you name it, I’ve gone the whole nine yards. While I will admit that the show can be incredibly trashy at times, something about it makes me want to watch it that much more. So when I found out that The Bachelor was holding auditions in Houston, I had to investigate.

While I never had the intention of actually auditioning, there was no way I would miss an opportunity to spend some time people watching and check out the filming location of one of my favorite TV shows.

The casting location of The Bachelor, The Downtown Aquarium in Houston, was less than two blocks away from my office. I assumed that I would easily be able to spot the audition line, secretly hoping that the endless line of people would beg the question: what fish could draw THAT big of a crowd?

As I trekked around the tanks full of aquatic creatures in my bright pink dress and heels (feeling somewhat silly for being in such nice clothes in an aquarium and being really proud of myself for somewhat looking the part), I realized that these auditions would be a lot harder to find than I thought.

Finally, I followed the scent of hairspray leading me up the elevator to the third floor of the aquarium.

The doors slid open. I found myself at the end of a large line of 20-something-year-old men and women and I could feel all eyes on me, their next competitor. I watched as one woman pulled out her travel sized hair curler, someone practiced answering interview questions with a companion, and a man (who was definitely a little too old to be the next bachelor) trying out his own pick-up lines on some of the women standing next to him.

I walked to the end of the line (trying to maintain my nonchalant attitude — I don’t want to find love on a TV show). As I looked around, I realized that one woman had not taken her eyes off of me. She batted her fake eyelashes and looked at her friend, mumbling something about the *grumble mumble* “girl in the pink dress.”

I felt a wave of insecurity as I looked down at my body, immediately beginning to recognize the minor flaws in my appearance.

The string hanging off my dress, the bruise on my ankle, the smudge of mascara I was sure I had on the left corner of my eye. I could feel myself begin to sweat. These women were all so gorgeous. Everyone’s hair was perfectly in place, their eyeliner was done flawlessly, and most of them looked like they had just walked off the runway. Obviously, I stuck out like a sore thumb.

I walked over to the couches and sat down. For someone who for the most part spent most of the two hours each Monday night mocking the cast, I was shocked by how much pressure and tension I felt in the room.

A cop, stationed outside the audition room, looked over at me. After a brief explanation that I was just there to watch, he smiled and offered me a tour around the audition space. I watched the lines of beautiful people walk in and out of the space, realizing that each and every one of these contestants to-be was fixated on their own flaws rather than actually worrying about “love.”

Being with all these people, I can see why it’s so easy to get sucked into the fantasy. Reality TV sells because it’s different than real life. And really, what girl wouldn’t like a rose?

Why was I so intimidated by these people? Reality TV is actually the biggest oxymoron. In real life, one person doesn’t get to call all the shots. Every night isn’t going to be in a helicopter looking over the south of France. A real relationship depends on more than the first impression.

The best part of being in a relationship is the reality. The best part about yourself isn’t your high heels. It’s not the perfect dress or the great pick-up lines. It’s being with the person that you can be real with. While I will always be a fan of The Bachelor franchise, this was a nice dose of reality. I think I’ll stick to my cheap sushi dates and getting caught in the rain.

But for anyone who wants to be on The Bachelor, let me just tell you: Your mom was right. There really are a lot of fish in the sea. Or at least at the aquarium.

Cover Image Credit: The Cut

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Drag Queen Soju Brings Attention To Ignorance Towards Asians In America

Soju's efforts are particularly significant to Asians in the LGBT+ community, who are not widely represented in American media.


A recent episode of "RuPaul's Drag Race," which is currently in its eleventh season, opened up a conversation about the treatment of Asian Americans in the drag community. During the episode's "reading" challenge, in which contestants jokingly exchange insults, Silky Nutmeg Ganache "read" Vietnamese-American contestant Plastique Tiara by repeatedly shouting what she claimed was the word "hurry" in Japanese. After asking what the word meant, Plastique responded, "I'm not Japanese!" as the other contestants laughed. Fans took to social media to express disappointment in the ignorance of Silky's joke, causing other "Drag Race" contestants to weigh in on the situation.

Soju, a Korean-American drag queen who also competed on season eleven, tweeted, "I'm Korean and plastique is Vietnamese" following the episode. She later added, "This isn't about dragging @GanacheSilky this is about educating. All of us can learn." Soju emphasized that she does not believe Silky is racist, but her read was still racially insensitive.

Soju stated in another series of tweets, "If my friends and sisters don't take my heritage and race seriously, then the problem is on me for letting these 'jokes' go on for too long... I've never had a problem for enjoying and celebrating Asian culture. But statements and jokes to degrade us is just not cool." In response to a reply on her tweet, she also added, "this is and always will be educating society about the reality of how Asians are not being taken seriously in America."

Fans praised Soju for bringing attention to and addressing the issue. Many Asian fans, in particular, were able to share their own experiences in their response to Soju. Jokes like the one made by Silky have always existed in the experience of Asian Americans. While the joke itself may not appear too harmful on the surface, it reflects the general perception of Asians in America. Asians are ignorantly treated as a monolith rather than as a diverse group with diverse backgrounds, and Asian culture is often presented as an amalgamation of cultures (mainly East Asian) as well.

Soju's efforts are particularly significant to Asians in the LGBT+ community, who are not widely represented in American media. Both her and Plastique Tiara's appearance on "RuPaul's Drag Race" have given positive representation to LGBT+ Asian-Americans, and it is especially encouraging to see her using her platform in the community to help educate others.

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