Yesterday, in the wake of the shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, I wrote a post on Facebook. It said:
“If every person who has shared something about the Orlando shooting made a commitment to challenging homophobic or transphobic language the next time they heard it that could make a difference. We can’t do anything about America’s gun laws, but we can do something small about the prejudice against LGBT+ people which still exists basically everywhere.”
It has had a good response, from LGBT+ and straight friends of mine alike. But writing it got me thinking; about what people, especially straight allies, understand by homophobia and about what behaviours need to be challenged.
As a gay person, I have spent my life since my teenage years, in various degrees at different times and in different environments, fearing hate, harassment, discrimination, isolation and violence. These things are so insidious that to some extent I don’t even acknowledge them anymore; it is just normal to me that I would consider my safety before telling a stranger my partner is a woman, or look around for people’s reaction when we hold hands in public in case we are in danger.
I have also spent my life being told in public spaces that “no one cares if you’re gay anymore” even though things happen every day that remind me that a lot of people do. That doesn’t mean that every day an event of the horror of Orlando happens (thankfully), but it does mean that every day myself and my LGBT+ siblings are othered and joked about, often by people who would not consider themselves homophobic. A lot of these behaviours, I believe, don’t come from the hate of individuals, but from systemic prejudice which sets up LGBT+ people as second class citizens.
When I first heard about the Orlando shootings I was sad, but as the days have gone on I have just got more and more angry: angry that someone hated us that much, yes, but also angry that the roots of that behaviour are all around us, every day, and so often we are told how things are much better now, how we are taking everything too seriously.
Well, I have had enough. It is great that so many people have come together to say that Orlando is wrong, that love is love. But to get to the root of this needs more than that; it needs all of us, especially straight allies, to stand up against homophobia. This doesn’t just mean not calling someone a slur, or telling someone that calling someone a slur is wrong. It means challenging assumptions that everyone is straight, it means asking what exactly is funny about your mate’s Facebook profile being changed to say he is interested in men, it means telling people that LGBT+ people are not here to be looked at (whether as a point of sexual interest or as a kind of ornament), it means not tolerating homophobia from anyone, even your Granny. Perhaps most importantly, it means listening to LGBT+ people when they tell you about their experiences of moving through the world – the things that make them feel less safe, the things that make them feel that they don’t belong – and responding to those things, doing the little you can to transform the world into the inclusive utopia it is so often made out to be.
I’m not saying these things are easy, they’re not. But they are vital, and they could ultimately save, and will certainly improve, the lives of LGBT+ people everywhere.
By an LGBT+ Staff Network Member
Alys Einion June 15th, 2016
Posted In: Uncategorized
There are no words to describe the horror, pain, dismay, disgust and grief that consumes the LGBT+ community and the rest of the world when considering what has happened this weekend in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, USA.
I have many, many thoughts on the topic, but none seem adequate. This could have been any one of us, straight or LGBT+ This is a hate crime of monstrous proportions.
Whenever anyone says, why do we need LGBT+ activism, or why do we need Pride, or why do we need an LGBT+ staff network, then I will ask them to think of this day.
Fifty people died today because of hate.
We need to hold together, all of us who are committed to making the world a better, fairer and inclusive place to live. We need to embrace our difference and diversity, honour each other’s viewpoints and beliefs, and live together either in harmony or in an agreement of mutual acceptance and tolerance.
I heard on the radio today the recording of the mother of one of the victims, begging for an end to violence.
Her son is dead.
Her life will never be the same again. She will soon bury her son and take up a life burdened by unspeakable pain and grief
Multiply that pain by fify, by a hundred. Then by the millions around the world who witness this event and grieve also. Our pain is nothing to theirs, but our lives will also never be the same.
Guns and homophobia, politics and hate, there are no words, not really. There can never be words big enough and powerful enough, nothing is strong enough to capture the depth of sadness and the anguish of this senseless loss of life.
The media try to make it about guns. It is not about guns, it is about homophobia and violence.
It is about an horrific resurgence of the fear that characterised the lives of so many members of our community for so long, a fear we thought we were eroding with the advent of better legislation, better social awareness, greater inclusion and greater visibility of LGBT+ people and issues.
More than ever, it is clear that there is a great deal of work still to be done to create true equality and make the world safe for everyone.
If ever we needed solidarity it is now.
With love and in sorrow
THE LGBT+ Staff network at Swansea University
#Orlando #Orlandoshooting #Orlandonightclubshooting
Alys Einion June 13th, 2016
Posted In: Uncategorized
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