Why men kissed in response to Orlando killings

Two men kissing at altar

When author Karl Soehnlein read an interview with the father of Omar Mateen, one section struck him in particular.

"We were in downtown Miami, Bayside, people were playing music. And he saw two men kissing each other in front of his wife and kid, and he got very angry," Seddique Mir Mateen told NBC News. His son Omar, the man behind the deadliest mass shooting in recent US history, killed 49 and injured at least as many at gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando during the early hours of Sunday morning.

"I was horrified by a quote from the gunman's father saying his son was 'very angry' after seeing 'two men kissing'. The idea that an expression of love could lead to such murderous violence was so upsetting to me," Soehnlein told BBC Trending.

Soehnlein then composed the following post for both Facebook and Twitter:

"I want to flood the world with images of men kissing...Fight back with love. ‪#‎TwoMenKissing‬"

And he included this image by photographer Jamiu Hello.

Two men kissing

"My message was simple: In a homophobic culture, visibility is essential. Our love makes us human. Kissing should be celebrated, not feared. Too many people still feel uncomfortable with images of men kissing. This is a message for both my community - a reminder to stand strong together in the face of adversity - as well as to those who fear and hate us: we're not going away," says Soehnlein .

The hashtag #TwoMenKissing was used over 10,000 times with many people sharing their own images.

Two men kissing pic
Two men kissing with Orlando hash tag

Soehnlein told us that he hopes the tag can also be used start a conversation in order to put an "end to homophobic laws, like the bathroom bill in North Carolina and the religious liberty laws in Indiana and elsewhere."

"I also feel strongly about holding politicians accountable. We need to call out Republican lawmakers who offer their 'thoughts and prayers' without acknowledging that the victims were from the LGBT community - silencing us in the midst of our own tragedy," says Soehnlein

Karl Soehnlein (left) with his husband Kevin Clarke Karl Soehnlein (left) with his husband Kevin Clarke

Soehnlein adds that social media was key in connecting with people after Sunday's killings.

"The massacre at the Pulse nightclub felt very far away. Posting an image of love felt like a way for me to support all those suffering in Orlando. And it connects someone like me - who has been out since the 1980s - with gay youth today, who are an inspiration and the future of our movement and community," he says.

Blog by Megha Mohan

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