As someone who blogs for his own personal enjoyment, I have been able to publish my thoughts and opinions with relative anonymity and little scrutiny. My blog, “Is This Why I’m Still Single?” is not an award-winning blog, and its scatter-brained content has never lent itself to heavy traffic. In the two and a half years I’ve been publishing I’ve received a little over 350,000 views, which is an impressive feat for a college student blogging about LGBTQ+ topics and Disney Princesses, but not so much for someone hoping to make a living off his or her writing. For the most part, my views have come from family members, friends, acquaintances, and folks from the subreddits I regularly spam, all of whom share similar opinions to me. And because of that I’ve never had to deal with harsh criticism, personal attacks, or hate mail. That all change once I published a piece on the Huffington Post.
When I wrote “An Open Letter to Straight People on the Pulse Massacre” I did not expect for it to receive over 60,000 views, or be highlighted on the Huffington Post’s social media accounts. I did not write the piece to garner mass attention, or to showcase my writing abilities. I wrote it because I was a gay man trying to process his anger, disappointment, and sadness in the only way I knew how to, and I published the piece because I wanted to see if anyone else in the universe felt the way I did. I expected the piece would never receive more than one thousand views, and anticipated it being washed away in the sea of media saturation. And to my surprise, the opposite happened: family and friends reached out to inform me that the post had gone viral, and soon after I stumbled upon a rapidly growing comment section full of debate and outrage surrounding my opinions. Within just a few hours, I started to receive emails from strangers who had managed to trace my email. My inbox flooded with messages from a few people who wanted to thank me for taking a stance and voicing my opinion. Unfortunately, the majority of messages were not so kind. I started to receive messages from people insulting and threatening me for sharing my opinions. One man even told me I was going to Hell for trying to “shove my round peg in a square-hole lifestyle into our faces and bedrooms.” Combing through the hateful comments sections and malicious e-mails made me realize that the moment I published my article on the Internet it became more than just thoughts and opinions; it became some kind of radical ideology that threatened the status quo and made me a target.
The negative backlash was discouraging and disheartening at first. I was not at all mentally prepared to deal with the sort of scrutiny and hatred that staff writers for the Huffington Post must experience on a daily basis. But then I remembered the quote from John F. Kennedy, “too often…we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” It was then that I started to feel proud for having inflamed so many people. The hatred I received then served as validation for every point I made in my article about straight people contributing to the homophobic culture that encourages violence like the shooting in Orlando. Every hateful comment and message reminded me of how deadly and manipulative the status quo can be, and as someone who has often felt too powerless to create meaningful change, I finally felt like I was taking an active role in inspiring the dialogue needed to eradicate homophobia and transphobia. The hatred I received did not deter me from writing; it did the opposite. It motivated me to continue writing and pursue my passion as a career.
Recently, the Senate failed to advance any gun violence reform measures. Odds are that we will experience another shooting sooner than later and that the Orlando shooting will simply become a name in a laundry list of senseless, preventable shootings. I refuse to let that happen, and I will continue to raise my voice and rally against the privileged and overly-protected people who fail to acknowledge how they disenfranchise and endanger their own fellow citizens. My Huffington Post hate mail experience has inspired me to voice the unpopular and underrepresented opinions that need to be heard, and to never let the fear and hatred of others keep me from writing what I believe is right.