You’ll have heard about the Orlando Massacre at Pulse nightclub by now, maybe not from the news, because it’s not been a headline everywhere, but from your social media feed. Here, gay people and allies are sharing their shock and anger at what was an attack on our community and simultaneously – as it so happens – the worst single-man gun attack in U.S. history.
I have little to add to what you’ve no doubt heard and read already, you’ll guess that as a gay man I feel scared and all at once completely useless – thousands of miles away from the epicentre, but feeling the tremors. I feel angry, as many do, that we’re part of a world that can let this happen, again. I feel ashamed even, that by some mix up in dates, my friends and I just so happen to be in Brighton for Pride this year, shortly before attending Manchester Pride too. When recalling the mix-up in the past I’d stress, “I’m not there for Pride though.” I didn’t want people to think I was one of “those gays,” those that did the “Pride circuit.” For that, now more than ever, I‘m ashamed.
But, most of all I’m in shock. Not at the fact some in our world harbour enough hatred toward people like me, my partner and my dear friends to take our lives. Not even at the brutality, the bloodshed or the pointlessness of it all, sadly that doesn’t shock me much, not now anyway.
What’s shocked me most of all is that having been presented with the facts of this horrific event, played out in plain sight, some seemingly intelligent people (writers, broadcasters, newspaper owners) still cannot bring themselves to admit, even for a second, that this was a homophobic attack. By calling this attack anything but an attack on the LGBT community, they forget it was gay blood spilled on a dancefloor, bullets fired at gay people, fired in a gay space. Ignorance in spite of facts, that’s what’s shocked me, that the homophobia of this tragedy didn’t end with the shooter.
It reminds me of what a co-worker and friend once told me when I recalled to her, a black woman, a moment when a stranger I was talking to at a museum opening, without warning or remorse said something racist. My co-worker half-smiled, knowingly and said, “that’s how they get you, out of nowhere, you’ll never expect it.”
I feel duped, in my privileged position as an out, British born gay man that I forgot extreme homophobia still lives on in our news, our institutions, our Facebook feeds. I guess I expected the world, no matter what personal prejudices, to see the Orlando massacre for what it so blatantly was, an attack on gay people.
Simply put, LGBT people cannot exist in a world without freedom, by fighting for mine you’re fighting for your own. So, by calling this a homophobic attack, not only do we honour those gay lives stolen, but we also do justice to all our freedoms. We are as one, even though, this time, it was gay people being murdered.