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Orlando Attacks Must Spur Us All to Beat Homophobia

22/06/2016 16:35 | Updated 22 June 2016

The attacks on Orlando are undoubtedly a low point for the worldwide LGBT community. The UK press appears to have begun to forget the significance of this attack in light of more recent news closer to home, and the media have barely given any concessions to claims of "straightwashing" coverage of the events. Vigils held worldwide and calls for solidarity at this time are a bright light coming out of the darkness, and must serve as a beacon for our community never to forget these atrocities.

The hate crime that took place in the early hours of Sunday 12 June has left families and loved ones of 49 victims devastated - but we must make sure it galvanises the global LGBT community and their allies. After all the work that has been done to grant our freedoms - as well as mainstream acceptance - this act throws into stark relief that homophobia still exists in society.

Whatever the range of motives behind the attack, it is undeniable that homophobic prejudice played a part. Huge progress has been made in recent years, not least towards marriage equality, but also by my own Women and Equalities Committee in Westminster on pushing for greater rights for the transgender community and by the progressive SNP Government in Scotland. Yet many people still live in a climate of fear.

Homophobia and transphobia still exist in society. Most worryingly, there is a direct correlation between this attack and casual homophobia expressed in language, prejudice in homes, and name-calling in school playgrounds. This includes seemingly innocuous actions like the use of the word "gay" as a pejorative. Acts like this may seem small in comparison to the atrocities seen in Orlando, but serve to normalise an ingrained sense that gay people are lesser than others, unnatural or wrong.

That is exactly why it is the responsibility of everyone who has been shocked, outraged, angered or saddened by the attacks in Orlando to challenge all forms of homophobia and transphobia that still exists in our society and to stand up for LGBT equality.

If any good can come from these horrific events, it must be that everyone, regardless of their orientation, has a greater responsibility to question what full equality means for the LGBT community.

I joined the vigil in London's Soho on the Monday night following the attacks, a huge and sprawling collective of thousands of people, centring on the Admiral Duncan pub, which was in 1999 the target of the worst homophobic attack in Britain. The atmosphere was one of solidarity among the LGBT community and our allies, the fullest expression of the rallying call on the back of the Orlando attacks that "Love Is Love", and one that I hope will continue to echo through pride celebrations in the UK and across the globe this month.

However far we have come in recent years, we still have a responsibility to challenge the culture of homophobia and transphobia that exists in society in all its forms. Until we do, prejudice, discrimination and extreme acts of hate will continue to happen.

Angela Crawley is the SNP MP for Lanark and Hamilton East

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