Evidence is building from a variety of sources that Orlando jihadi Omar Mateen, who murdered 49 people at gay nightclub Pulse, was himself gay, or had “gay tendencies,” as his ex-wife put it. Strangely, the ex-wife claims FBI agents asked her not to share this detail with the media.
That report comes from the New York Post, which in turn reports on an interview Sitora Yusufiy gave a Brazilian TV station, with her current fiancé translating her remarks into Portuguese. According to Yusufiy, who was married to Mateen for three months in 2009, the Orlando murderer had “gay tendencies,” and was once called “gay” by his father in her presence.
Most remarkably, Yusufiy said “the FBI asked her not to tell this to the American media.”
The New York Post also cites a Palm Beach Post report that a male former classmate of Mateen’s from Indian River Community College claims they used to hit gay bars together in 2006, and Mateen once “asked him out romantically.”
The classmate in question, Chris Callen – who performs as a drag queen under the name “Kristina McLaughlin” – said Mateen was escorted out of Pulse after drinking too much on several occasions, and once pulled a knife on a friend.
The Palm Beach Post reports that all but one of the gay bars Callen said he frequented with Mateen closed down over the ensuing decade, and the owner of the remaining bar said he did not remember seeing Mateen. Sheriff’s deputies reported visited another establishment that has since reopened under a new name, to ask the owner if he recognized Mateen.
Several other Pulse patrons told the Orlando Sentinel similar stories about Mateen drinking heavily at the club, sometimes becoming “loud and belligerent.” A Pulse regular named Kevin West said that Mateen sent him messages using a gay dating app called Jack’d. West gave his phone and Jack’d login credentials to the FBI, so they could verify his claim.
During an MSNBC interview, Pulse patron Cord Cedeno said he recognized Mateen from another gay dating app, Grindr. Cedeno described Mateen’s Grindr messages as “creepy,” and said “I blocked him immediately.”
Cedeno said one of his friends, who did not want to talk to the media, recalled seeing Mateen posts on yet another gay dating service called Adam for Adam. Two of his other friends have turned in their phones to the FBI to document Mateen’s activity on gay dating sites, but he said others who could provide supporting testimony are afraid to speak out.
“He was trying to pick up people. Men,” 71-year-old Pulse regular Jim Van Horn told the Associated Press. Van Horn said his friends warned him that Mateen was “a strange person.”
Mateen’s father told the Palm Beach Post that he did not think his son was gay. “If he was gay, why would he do something like this?” Seddique Mateen asked.
Seddique Mateen has previously claimed that his son was driven over the edge by the sight of “two men kissing,” a narrative that would dissolve completely if the reports of his frequent attendance at gay bars are true. The effort to position the story as an violent expression of generic “homophobia,” more than sharia ideology and international terrorism, would also be complicated by revelations that Mateen himself was gay.
A more complicated narrative might portray Mateen as embracing violent Islamic fundamentalism to absolve or erase his “gay tendencies.” That would be much harder to politicize, while simultaneously keeping radical Islam out of the discussion.