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To Young People Consumed By Orlando: Let It Inspire Hope, Not Fear

14/06/2016 13:11 | Updated 14 June 2016

For many young people, Orlando will be the largest attack on LGBT people that has happened in their lifetime. It certainly is for me.

As with many, I may have been alive in 1999 when the gay bar in London the Admiral Duncan was nail-bombed, killing three and injuring 70 - but I didn't watch the news when I was 7, so it doesn't sit in my mindset like Orlando does.

"I haven't been able to stop thinking about, it's totally consumed my mindset. I can't comprehend the amount of hatred that must have consumed that person into doing those horrific actions"
Hatti Smart - Chair of National Student Pride

Hatti I feel the same.

Since the surreal beginning of this story, it's been at the front of my mindset as I constantly checked social media for updates. Whether watching the incident as it began on Twitter, seeing as the death toll rise from 20 to 50 on the news and in the following 48 hours as horrifying details have poured out.

When I was at London's vigil Monday night, chatting to young people who had spent the last two days between tears and a swirl of emotions it dawned on me how for so many, this may well be the largest concentration of hate against LGBT people they've witnessed.

Young Labour's Jack Falkingham reflected on those who have grown up in an age of such legislative progress for LGBT people "I believe this will be a key moment in my generation's lives in highlighting, perhaps for the first time, the true strength and superiority of our community in the face of hate"

For our generation of digital natives, the internet has been a liberating way of connecting with people across the world. During the aftermath of this attack, it's also been a channel to connect with the pain of the friends, family and community of the 49 dead and over 50 injured in this attack.

It was reading about Stanley Almodovar, a pharmacy technician killed in the attack that put it into sharp focus for me. In particular, his mother's reflection as she recounted how Stanley has had snapchatted a video of himself singing before heading to the club. Rosalie Ramos told the Orlando Sentinel "I wish I had that to remember him forever" 💔

But it was this video of Christine Leinonen, that boiled my emotions so much. This widely shared interview on ABC happened in the morning after the attack. Just as I'm finishing writing this post, her son Christopher has been confirmed as one of the dead after a 36-hour wait.

Christine, you should be so proud of your son.

As the LGBT community comes to terms with this homophobic attack, it does so as strong criticisms come out about traditional media that because of what I can only describe as unconscious bias seemed to erase how this was a targeted attack.

Dan Seamarks who is Chair of the Student Publication Association called out those who played down that LGBT were the target. "This wasn't simply an attack on America. This was an attack on people who love the same gender, plain and simple" as he urged student media to get behind their respective LGBT societies and show that fear should not ruin our right to love.

Senior Lecturer at the University of Westminster Steven Cranfield does remember the Admiral Duncan attack, he was outside just 10 minutes before the bomb went off. He thought then, what many young people fear now. It could have been me, or worse - it could be me next.

Reflecting upon that night after London's vigil his message to young people is "Don't let fear turn to hatred and scapegoating other people. Talk about it to your friends, including those who find it hard to listen. The fact you care about the people whose lives have been taken from them is a sign of your common humanity. No one can take that away from you."

The events in Orlando have quite unfortunately now made the question 'why do we need pride?' so easy to answer, as the season begins. Going further, Steven added "On the eve of pride celebrations it's a cruel reminder that life for many young LGBTI people is a very fragile thing. Their freedoms cannot be taken for granted."

To those looking to do something with lingering anger from the hate that fueled this attack. Look at the voices that are thinking about this year's Pride parades.

"I honestly think that this attack will remind everyone just how important pride, in its truest form, is. I really hope that all LGBT+ people and our allies come out in force this pride season to show that love really does win."
Melantha Chittenden - Incoming NUS LGBT+ Officer

So why should you get out to support your local pride season? Because it's only by turning any fear and anger you have into positives, that together, we can turn this hateful act - into a message of hope and love.

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