A new thread in the story of Orlando gunman Omar Mateen. According to multiple patrons of Pulse, the gay club that was the scene of the massacre, Mateen was in fact a regular at the club and also maintained a profile on at least one gay dating app. The reporting, by the LA Times and the Orlando Sentinel is not clear on whether Mateen had sex with other men or whether he was somehow casing the establishment in preparation for his attack. But at least two parts of the story suggests there was more going on than just preparing for the attack.
Kevin West, a regular at Pulse, told the LA Times he had been messaging with Mateen on and off for a year on the gay dating app Jack’d. He says he never met Mateen in person until the night of the attacks. Also, one Pulse regular interviewed by the Sentinel said Mateen had been a regular at the club “for years.”
From the Times …
At least four regular customers of Pulse, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender nightclub where the massacre took place, told the Orlando Sentinel on Monday that they believed they had seen Mateen there before.
“Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself, and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent,” said Ty Smith, who also uses the name Aries.
He saw Mateen at the club at least a dozen times, he said.
“We didn’t really talk to him a lot, but I remember him saying things about his dad at times,” Smith said. “He told us he had a wife and child.”
I don’t want to be naive or jump ahead of the evidence. But this new information certainly suggests that Mateen’s feelings about gay men were complicated and conflicted.
Extreme homophobia? Extremely closeted homosexuality? A curdled, conflicted and mutually reinforcing combination of the two? One can definitely read into these details a very different picture than the one we’ve seen in the media today – that of a closeted gay man or man with an irrepressible sexual desire for other men who was simultaneously disgusted with himself and gay men who lived their lives openly. The details so far are too sparse to come to that conclusion. What seems clear is that Mateen’s crime was heavily driven by his relationship with homosexuality. Nor of course does this preclude or even really complicate a jihadist motivation also being at work.