Gobsmacked to hear the news that America has suffered their largest mass shooting attack in US History this weekend.
Gobsmacked to hear that this dreadful, unimaginable horror took place in a club, targeting innocent people enjoying a night out, without provocation.
Gobsmacked to hear that this tragedy took place in In a Gay Club.
Gobsmacked at how the homophobic nature of this attack was so easily dismissed by Sky News Host Mark Longhurst and journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer in discussion with, the rightly upset, Owen Jones. Whilst Longhurst is right to point out that this attack was also an attack on the freedom of human beings wishing to enjoy themselves, it was primarily an expression of hatred towards the LGBT community. Failing to recognise this is to turn our backs on the LGBT Communities, is to undermine their relevance, is to disregard their importance, is to forget the fear and social persecution they have suffered and do suffer in everyday life.
I witness just as much casual everyday homophobia as I do casual, everyday sexism. Comments like "that's so gay" or "don't be gay" are very readily thrown around with very little thought for the meaning, consequence or impact. Whilst said in jest and of course, I'm sure when questioned, the speaker won't have anything against gay people, the use of the word 'gay' in such a derogatory way, is belittling and damaging to members of the LGBT community. It is a constant and subtle reminder of worse times gone by. It is a remnant of the social persecution that led to so many living lives of secrecy and fear in the generations before us. Worse, it is the softer and more manageable degradation for those who have more recent experiences of hate they may have suffered, or are currently suffering, due to their sexual orientation. Whilst many would like to assume so, Gay Hate is not something of the past, which is why the casual dismissal of its relevance in this instance is so damaging.
As Nigel Morris for The Independant reported in October 2015, the number of reported hate crimes against the LGBT Community had risen in the UK.
Forces in England and Wales recorded 5,597 hate crimes against gays and lesbians in 2014-15, a rise of 22 per cent on the previous 12 months. The spike in violence and abuse based on victims' sexual orientation emerged in statistics revealing a continued rise in offences which are classified as "hate crimes".
That's just the reported hate crime. Consider the number of hate crimes that went unreported. Now is not the time to ignore that this event took place in a Gay Club. If 'Coming out' still exists, then we know that there are young people worldwide who will see this attack as another reason to fear being who they are. It will re-affirm for example, that it's probably easiest/safest not to hold hands with their boyfriend/girlfriend in public despite that being a perfectly acceptable and safe public display of affection for their straight peers. That perhaps they should try not to 'look so gay' so as not to attract negative attention, maybe it re-affirms that 'fitting in' is the safest option right now, so don't 'come out' yet, maybe wait a couple of more years. All of which is simply unacceptable in a progressive society where freedom to live how we choose should be the right of every human being. But when we publicly dismiss the wider impacts of this attack by not recognising the homophobic element, we show those young people that no-one really cares, No-one is fighting their corner, we turn our backs on our LGBT Communities.
Rather than allowing this dreadful attack to be an opportunity to create further social division by allowing the media to distract us with talk of radicalism, religious extremism and political stance, we should instead take the time to think about the wider impact this attack may have and do what we can to minimise the secondary damage within our LGBT Communities. Let's unite and express our grief for the innocent lives lost, share in our upset caused by this tragic event, take the time to show empathy and to reassure our LGBT people that they are accepted. That they should not allow this attack to prevent them from being who they are, living life how they choose, loving who they choose. We will not dismiss them, we will stand alongside them.