This blog goes completely off topic and I thought long and hard before I even sat down and wrote it about whether I should, or could, write it. Whether I had the right to even begin to comment on something which happened thousands of miles away from me and didn’t effect me personally. I wasn’t sure, I’m still not, but the more I think about it the more I realise that the feelings I have today, while triggered by what happened in Orlando on Sunday, are personal to me and my community. I admit to ignoring most of the coverage that came out early on Sunday, I saw the words LGBT+ and shooting and avoided it knowing that it would upset and anger me in equal measures but the longer it went on, the more information that came out, the more that was posted on social media, the more I knew that I had to find out what was going on.
I was, and still am, heartbroken that somewhere that was supposed to be a safe place for a community which has very few safe places had been violated in such a way, I’m heartbroken for the families, friends, partners who have lost loved ones and for those who were killed and those who survived and now must deal with what they have seen. In the end I knew I needed to write this blog, to share my feelings, because it could so easily have been any of us, any LGBT+ community around the world, waking up this morning having lost members of our community, people we classed as friends, as family.
It goes without saying that I’m angry too, angry about the fact that this had to happen at all, angry at the way that certain groups are using the deaths of innocent people as support for their religious ideology or their political agenda and angry that even after this people will still question why we need to celebrate LGBT+ Pride. I’m angry that, after I posted an Instagram post in support of Orlando, that some nameless, faceless human being decided that it was their right to pick one of my pictures (not even one of me and Sarah but one of me with friends out on a walk) to call me a faggot.
I know I’ve been lucky in my life, I was never brought up to believe that I could only love a man, when I did come out my family and my friends were nothing but supportive, my family have adopted Sarah like she is one of their own, I live in a time where it is legal for me to marry the woman I love, and other than the odd call of dyke or lesbian as I passed a group of teenagers on the council estate I grew up on I haven’t had to deal with homophobic abuse anything like that of other people I know or have read about so I think it still surprises me when someone does say something to me, especially when they hide behind the internet to do it.
I know that my journey has been drastically different to that of thousands of LGBT+ people who because of culture, religion or something else don’t feel safe to come out or come out and face nothing but persecution. Who are made to believe that what they feel, who they love, who they want to be is wrong, disgusting or shameful, something unnatural. Violence against the LGBT+ community only solidifies the idea for these people that there are people in the world who dislike what they are so much that they want to hurt and even murder them. With all of that to deal with it’s really no wonder that some people are terrified to come out and live their authentic lives.
Too many people, people who claim to be intelligent, educated, still ask why we need Pride, say ‘what about straight Pride?’ assume that because gay marriage has been legalised in the UK and other parts of the world that everything is equal, they ignore the fact that in some countries it is still illegal to be homosexual and transgender rights are even farther behind. If anything Orlando, the biggest massacre of LGBT+ people in the western world since the holocaust, illustrates that more needs to be done.
The LGBT+ community will continue to need Pride for as long as they continue to need to justify their existence and their preferences, for as long as they fear coming out to their families and friends, for as long as there is a need to ‘come out’ at all, for as long as people continue to call it a gay wedding and not just a wedding and for as long as they need a place to feel safe.
Living without fear is a basic human right, I and every other member of the LGBT+ community should never have to fear telling someone they are gay, should never have to let go of their loved ones hand out of fear that someone might attack them physically or verbally . I SHOULDN’T have had to spend last night with a nagging worry at the knowledge that I had friends who were attending Blackpool Pride, i shouldn’t have had to wonder how safe they were.
As a community we build a ‘scene’ as a place we can feel safe, where we can be ourselves without fear of being judged, ridiculed or attacked. It’s true that the scene can be a toxic place sometimes, it can get a bit like school, a bit bitchy, a bit cliquey and everyone has a tendency to know everyone elses business but when it really matters everyone is there for each other and you couldn’t ask for better friends (or bigger personalities).
I can only hope that what happened in Orlando and what the Police prevented at LA Pride doesn’t scare people into hiding in fact I hope it does the opposite, I hope it brings people and communities together, I hope it doesn’t silence us, that we continue to live, love and support each other, to be our best selves despite the attempts of others to bring us down. I think Bob the Drag Queen put it pretty well “Not living in fear is a form of activism.”
In the last 24 hours the Newcastle LGBT+ community has proven its strength, its togetherness by organising not one but three vigils across the city to show it’s support for Orlando along with an open mic night for people who have something to say and fundraising for those affected, they have proven that we will not be silenced, that we stand with Orlando and I for one could not be more proud to say that I am a part of that community.