13/06/2016 11:22 BST | Updated 14/06/2017 06:12 BST

Now More Than Ever, It Is Time to Be Our Best Queer Selves


My heart is truly breaking right now, following Sunday's horrific events in Orlando, Florida.

It's breaking, not just for the 49 LGBT+ people who have already died simply because they fancied a night out, listening to good music among like-minded people, but also for their families, who are now facing grief I can't even begin to imagine.

It's breaking not just for those currently in critical condition in hospital, but for the young people growing up queer and thinking that this is what lies ahead for them, as well as the older generation who have lived through it all time and time again, from the Stonewall riots to section 28, and even the ongoing "bathroom" debate in South Carolina.

Like all terrorist atrocities, this one had a clear message. As I, along with the rest of the world, read through the updates on Sunday morning, the subtext rang through loud and clear: 'There are people in this world who hate you enough to murder you in the place you thought you were most safe.'

Sky News might not want to acknowledge it, and the Daily Mail might not think it's important enough to put on their front page, but this was an attack on queer people in what should be a space they can leave the world and its bullshit at the door.

My emotions since have been fluctuating between total devastation for the innocent people killed in the attack, and blind rage that there are still people in this world who hate us so much that they will gun 49 of us down, simply because we tick a different box on a form to them.

That's a fucking scary feeling, and there's no point in pretending otherwise.

But 49 people are dead now, killed by someone whose problem with them was little more than who they fancied, how they dressed, how they presented themselves. We owe it to them to not let anyone who still feels even a glimmer of that hatred get what they want. We owe it to those fallen 49 to be the best queer selves we can possibly be. And that means we're going to have to stick together. Have each other's backs. Stop judging each other's life choices, whatever they may be.

If your idea of being your best queer self involves flying the rainbow flag above your front door, then you fly that flag as high as you can. You put on I Will Survive nice and loud, and dance in your front yard. You make sure everyone sees you, and knows you're making no apologies for who you are.

But perhaps that's not you. Perhaps being your best queer self involves getting married, spending your weekends wine-tasting and walking your dogs. Perhaps it involves snogging the face off as many people as will allow you to.

Whatever it is, good for you. You do you, but the important thing is that we remember to let others do them as well.

If this horrendous tragedy has taught us anything, it's that there are real people who will show up to our front door uninvited, and will gun us down because they're pissed off at us having a snog on the dance floor.

We need to support each other, because when all's said and done, we truly are all in this together. We each need to stand up and be counted, put our fist in the air and prove we're not going anywhere. We need to channel the bravery, strength and courage of those who came before us, and use it to remain defiant, even when that feels like the scariest and most difficult thing in the world.

Perhaps most importantly of all, we need to show future generations of LGBT+ people that we did not get where we are today without a fight. They can bully us, they can deride us and, yes, they can come into our space and do their worst. But they can not stop us.