(Photo: Facebook and Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Disgusted is the best way to describe the feeling that went through the body of the collective community when we saw the headline: “Trial Begins For Man Who Allegedly Tortured, Killed 8 Year Old Boy For Being Gay.”

As comments poured in, and tweets went viral, feelings around how an adult could be so cruel to a defenseless child were shared by many, particularly heterosexual, trying to reconcile what this world has become.

But unfortunately for those of us who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or queer, a tragedy such as this is far too common and serves as a stark reminder of how no person is safe as a member of the LGBTQ community.

Just Tuesday, Abdel Cedeno, a bisexual teen who killed his classmate in a bout of rage after being bullied and teased for years was indicted for manslaughter. This same community up in arms about the murder of an 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, was somehow unable to see the similarity in terms of pervasive homophobia and queer violence. Cedeno stabbing his bully–and for all intents and purposes his abuser–represented the other side of the battle. The outcome of when LGBTQ people have had enough and finally snap.

“Fight or flight” and “kill or be killed” have become rules to live by as LGTBQ people, both closeted and out. Bullying and torture like tactics continue to be used against LGBTQ people, as the dehumanizing process has started at the top and trickled its way down into local communities. In the case of 8-year-old Gabriel, our worst fears have now become a reality. Gabriel’s abuser was his mother’s boyfriend, a person who should have been in a place to protect the young boy from a world not accepting of lives lived outside of the heteronormative. Instead, he subjected Gabriel to eating cat feces, cat litter, all while regularly bounding, gagging, and pepper spraying the young boy. All because he assumed young Gabriel to be gay.  

Masculinity has been the greatest threat to the existence of LGBTQ people. There is nothing good about upholding any image of masculinity, for it is toxic, and those of us who chase it while attempting to challenge it only appear to be playing an active role in our own demise.

The toxicity that comes from masculinity continues to hurt marginalized populations and is accountable for many deaths within the LGBTQ community. It is disheartening that the average life expectancy of a Black transgender woman is 35. Twenty one trans people have been murdered in 2017, and this number only continues to climb as their rights continue to be reduced in direct correlation with this statistic.   

We have no options for safety as LGBTQ people, and the heterosexual community is not doing enough to ensure these environments start getting built. When we live our lives closeted, we are often bullied and teased for hiding who we truly are. The culture of “outing” folks is still something many of us have to deal with, as it is often weaponized against us by those outside of our community and intracommunity. When we do disclose who we are and choose to live as out LGBTQ people, our visibility in turn makes us targets for hatred and discrimination.

This visibility is also dangerous, as there are no protections in place for us against work discrimination, and we can be fired based on our sex and gender. In many states, we can even be refused service for being a part of the LGBTQ community. Safety is not just a buzzword. It is dangerous to our own bodies to be a member of the LGBTQ community, especially when those who are in place to serve as our protectors become our worse adversaries, as in the case of young Gabriel. Those of us who do survive, often have to work through trauma well into adulthood.  

As racism is on the White community to fix, and rape culture is on men to fix, this one falls on heterosexual community to fix. We as LGBTQ people can and will continue to fight against the daily oppression that we face, but we cannot alone fix societies views against us. The intersection of religious ideology that does not coincide with the lived experience outside of the heteronormative is what continues to drive this belief that we are less than human; our sex and gender identities superseding our inherent right to equality as human beings.

We have an administration that is intent on making the LGBTQ second-class citizens. Laws and rights should be provided equitably simple because we are humans. Healing can never come without there being an acknowledgement that we have a serious problem with how LGBTQ people are treated. Hetero people must work with our community while fighting back against their own to create the safer environments necessary for our existence. It is your duty to challenge your homophobic friends and family members. It is your duty to challenge yourself, if you have issues with the LGBTQ community.

Our community as a whole lacks the knowledge around LGBTQ persons, part and parcel because of a K-12 system which has no teaching in the subject matter, and no real community development for a bridge in understanding needed as more people identify as LGBTQ at a much younger age.

Stories like that of Gabriel and Abdel don’t have to happen. Trans women should be able to live passed the age of 40, 50, 60 and beyond. LGBTQ people should not be subjected to violence for just existing as we are. Tragic stories will continue to happen if we don’t begin to challenge the idolization of masculinity, and everyone deserves the right to be safe and exist despite their sex and gender.

George M. Johnson is the Managing Editor of BroadwayBlack.com.  He has written for Ebony, TheGrio, TeenVogue, NBC News and several other major publications. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram