Monday, 13 June 2016

Thoughts on the Homophobic Mass Shooting in Orlando, Florida

I have been thinking much this morning about the shooting in Florida at Pulse nightclub, a gay venue in Orlando Florida.  Fifty killed.  Over fifty injured.  In an attack motivated, it seems, by hatred of queer people.  I am sure everyone reading this is saddened and shocked by the events.  It could have been even worse had it not been for the police response which led to the rescue of many more people from the club.

These photos were taken at IDAHOT in 2014 - the Newcastle commemoration of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. It was a day at which we heard about homophobia and transphobia here in the UK, even in Newcastle. We heard from a black African immigrant how much worse it is in his country of origin. We heard of people doing good work to educate and campaign against homophobia and transphobia.

The gay pride flag was raised and flew at Newcastle Civic Centre, as the trans pride flag has since then. That's an amazing thing. Twenty years ago, even ten years ago, that would have been almost unthinkable. We have made progress here.

So do we still need such days? Yes we do. What has happened in Orlando shows we do - as do happenings and laws and persecution across the world and the abuse that LGBTQIA+ people receive on a regular basis.

One day we may not need such days as IDAHOT. We may have acheived legal and social equality and full acceptance. But those fifty people killed, each one as important as each other one, and those more than fifty injured people in a queer nightclub in Orlando are a stark reminder that that day is not today. While there are still those who hate us, despise us for our sexuality or gender we need to keep campaigning and fighting and standing tall.

My heart is for all who lost their lives in the homophobic hate attack in Florida. It is for all who were injured. It is for the families and friends of those who have died. It is for the entire queer community in that state. In my own small way I stand for all those people, one queer person side by side with many, one queer person who cannot hide her queerness, just as those who died did not hide.

I have no adequate words to express what I feel for them all. Perhaps there are no adequate words, and nothing that has been written from the shock, anger and sorrow that has followed the attack can quite reach the truth of our hearts.

A year ago this week, a TV series, Sense8, included a speech. It calls upon all LGBTQIA+ people to walk with pride.  And no matter what happens, we will continue to walk with pride. 

Because we are beautiful.

We are valuable.

We are as important as anyone else.

We are equal.

No matter how much hate there is.

No matter how many of us are abused, be it verbally, emotionally or physically.

No matter how many of us lose our homes or our jobs or our friends for being who we are.

No matter how many young people are thrown out of their homes
or disowned by their families for being queer.

No matter if religions continue to teach that we are evil
and fundamentally disordered for being queer.

No matter if people hate us so much that they kill us.

No matter if others think we deserve to be killed
because their ancient book says so
but they think the killing is the job of their loving God.

No matter if the bigots and the ignorant continue to teach
that there is something wrong with us.

No matter if even many of my queer friends - maybe even ALL of them
have been subject to abuse of varying kinds and degrees
for daring to accept themselves.

No matter if the word "gay" is still used every day as an insult.

No matter if some people - both religious and non-religious - are even cheering about the Orlando massacre, being glad that there are fifty less gay people in the world today. No matter if the biggest shock for the father of the killer isn’t that he murdered dozens of queer people. It’s that he did it during Ramadan. No matter how many people have views as sick as those. No matter how many more tragedies and abhorrent crimes occur across the globe.

No matter what. No matter what. We will walk with pride.

We are fabulous. The haters will hate us. But they cannot take away the truth that we are fabulous and that we are stunningly beautiful in our queerness and rainbow variety.

We walk with pride. And we will not stop. Ever.

That's my speech. Here's the one from the TV drama, spoken by a transgender character, portrayed movingly by a transgender woman:

For a long time I was afraid to be who I am because I was taught by my parents there's something wrong with someone like me. Something offensive. Something you would avoid maybe even pity. Something that you would never love. My mom, she's a fan of Saint Thomas of Aquinas. She calls pride a sin. Saint Thomas saw pride as the queen of the seven deadlies. She saw it as the ultimate gateway sin that would turn you quickly into a sinaholic. But hating isn't a sin on that list. Neither is shame. I was afraid of this parade because I wanted so badly to be a part of it. So today I'm marching for that part of me that was much too afraid to march. And for all the people who can't march. The people living lives like I did. Today, I march to remember that I'm not just a me. I'm also a we. We march with pride. So go (explicit) yourself, Aquinas.

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