On the 12th June, the lives of countless people changed forever as a lone gunman walked into a gay bar in Orlando and shot 49 people dead and injured 53 more. It was the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in America’s history and it was the worst atrocity visited upon the LGBT community this century.
For days after I couldn’t bring myself to read about the tragic events. Like many of you reading this, I have been in a gay club at last orders and when the fluorescent house lights blast on to send us, drunkenly blinking into the early morning on our merry way home. To imagine the horrifying scenes unfolding was, and is still, just too much to bear.
I was in the US when the attack happened. I was enjoying a gay street festival in one of Chicago’s gay-friendly neighbourhoods. There was laughter, there was joy and there was a real community spirit. Despite hardly knowing anyone at the festival, I was made to feel welcome, I was quickly made to feel part of ‘the club’. I imagine this to be the spirit that was in Pulse that night. That joy will be now forever tinged with sorrow and fear. As a friend so eloquently put it to me, just hours after the attacks, “f***ers… now they’ve taken away the only safe spaces we have.”
Some in the media were hesitant in calling this a homophobic attack, but make no mistake it was a heinous homophobic attack. Right at the centre of the gay community. Gay bars and clubs have long been the heart of the community. Their history is undeniable. They bring people together, they are often the first place we feel able to be ourselves. Sure they can be the home of drama but they are always full of laughs, loves and the birthplace of our political movement.
The gunman specifically went there to kill members of the LGBT community.
Whatever the gunman’s motives; hatred of gay people, terrorism or internalised homophobia, his target was a safe space for LGBT people and their allies.
Many of us felt that it was coming. An attack event against LGBTs was, you could argue, just a matter of time. The violence in Orlando had horrifying echoes of the terror attack in Paris last November. In fact after the attack on the Bataclan, which was chosen by the terrorists because it was where “hundreds of idolaters were together in a party of perversity”, I asked gay club and bar owners across London what their response to threat would be.
Sadly no answers were forthcoming.
So we have to keep our eyes and ears open and we must remain alert. We have to ensure our safe spaces remain open – wide open. We can’t let hate close us down. We can’t let hate shut our doors. Those 49 brothers, sisters, children, lovers and friends whose lives were brutally cut short will be forever etched in our hearts. They, like all victims of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic abuse will become one more link in our chain, one more stepping stone on our journey and one more reason to fight for equality and freedom across the world.
This is taken from Issue 21 of THEGAYUK – download now for free or subscribe to never miss another issue.
Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you’d like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.
Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.