Wednesday, 15 June 2016
We are Orlando
I've had over four days to try and attempt to dwell on the heartbreaking events that happened over the weekend. Yet I still struggle to find words. I open up every form of social network and find all manner of people exclaiming their disbelief, their anger, their pain. I wondered whether it was worth writing anything at all, whether I would be regurgitating what has already been said by others across the globe. But then, I thought, an echo of the same idea is what gets people noticed, gets people talking, gets a seed planted firmly in the brains of others. So what exactly do I have to say?
I say that I'm stunned, and still in shock of this viscous, uncalled for attack on the LGBT community. Clubs like Pulse have offered a place of sanctuary and shelter for those who felt shunned from the outside world, a place to feel free and unrestricted. Where you could be anyone you wanted to be. No one cared what you wore, how flamboyant or introverted you were, whether you danced or not. You were widely accepted for you. Places like Pulse opened their hearts to the LGBT community and gave them a home to freely express their identity when the outside world chose to ignore it. A safe haven, if you will. But now, thanks to a man whose institutionalised homophobia and denial of his own sexuality lead to the deaths of over fifty brothers and sisters, our sanctuary has been wrongfully taken away from us. As a gay man, I have never felt more accepted, or more welcomed than in a gay club. People who have strong presupposed ideas of a gay club or bar, truly, have no idea what it's like to walk down the street in fear. Fearing that you may walk too feminine, or fearing to hold your partner's hand, or kiss his cheek. In our many places of sanctuary, we could shed that fear like a bird shedding its feathers before it takes flight. And oh how we would soar into the night, uniting with our brothers and sisters, dancing, drinking, laughing. We felt comfortable, we felt safe. Now, I feel more scared than ever. I'm scared that rash homophobic and xenophobic attitudes still exist in the world and I'm scared that it's terrifyingly easy for people to act on them in the worst way possible. I also fear for the younger generation of the LGBT community; those who are still living in the closet, struggling to come to terms with themselves.
But do you know what I find more scary, and truth be told, downright exhausting? Bigots like Trump, like Firage, like Julia Hartley-Brewer, ignoring the plain, obvious facts and jumping for the "IT'S MUSLIM TERRORISTS ATTACKING PEOPLE" card. This was the worst mass killing of LGBT in the western world since the Holocaust. THE HOLOCAUST. Yet, people gloss over this blatant attack on our community, because they still choose to not acknowledge LGBT people as part of their society. Yes, we have marriage equality but it doesn't end there funnily enough. We deserve the right to be acknowledged in society, to be equal. Yet we aren't. We are still considered inferior in many ways, we deal with internalised prejudice and torrents of homophobic abuse every single day. I repressed all of my feelings during my teenage years, after suffering from countless amounts of bullying or name calling. Being gay was to be something disgusting, to be diseased and isolated. I suffered in silence for a long time, before finally coming to terms with myself, accepting who I was and being brave. I grew older, and saw a rally for change. I met more LGBT people, talked to them, listened to their stories. We united through our pain and past experiences to look forward and pave the way for social change. Sadly, cases like this prove how far we have to go to reach true equality, communities have united in grief for Orlando globally, yet I still feel like we are outcasts. Straight people, can sympathise of course, but will truly never know the grief and outrage our community is feeling at this moment. A lazy like on Facebook, or sharing one picture on Twitter isn't enough.
Interestingly, I wonder how long it will be before everyone stops talking about this. I noticed an awkward silence, or a pregnant pause, in the room whenever I mentioned it at work over the last few days. Yet, Paris, or the current Football riots between the England and Russian fans, were, or are topics of conversation that never seem to go away. If this was a massacre in a fairly well known state school, I feel things would certainly be different. There's always something to flesh out, or discuss. On Tuesday, only one newspaper made the shooting its front page. One. To repeat myself, the worst massacre against LGBT people in the western world since the Holocaust and it wasn't even front page news to most. I guarantee by next week, it'll have faded into the background. As Raven-Symoné beautifully pointed out, society comes together in love to grieve and for what feels like a brief moment, we are united, but how long does it last? We discuss the importance of the community, the distressing issue of Gun Control for, say, two months, before everything digresses to how it was before. People say LGBT people are their family too, but how long for exactly? How long were you Charlie? How long were you Brussels? People are forgetting that this is not the first time we have experienced a hate crime, nor I'm sure it will be the last. We have always needed your support, and to get it after such a brutal massacre feels...disappointing. Why did we have to let over fifty people, the youngest at twenty two, be slaughtered in, essentially, their home, for you to wake up and realise we have always needed your help?
But, I can't ignore the love and support I have seen, regardless of whether it's been ongoing or not. Seeing Old Compton Street bristling with people all tightly packed in together, was breathtaking and so, incredibly moving. A friend of mine wished how she hoped the shooter had been alive to see the thousands pouring in from all over America to donate blood to the victims of the massacre, so that he could see the overwhelming amounts of love and support going toward them. Love will always triumph over evil, hatred and bigotry. Though I know this may anger some people, or get people talking, I stand by every single point I've made. I have wrote this from the heart, because this IS personal. I have learned to fully embrace myself and embrace others, I shall never stop being joyful, or proud to be who I am and love who I love. Life is to be lived fully and fabulously, and for our fallen brothers and sisters, I mourn but I salute you. We will never forget and we will shout as loudly as we can to get our voices heard. Your lives won't have been lost for nothing when we stand united as a family, because we are Orlando.