vigil

Vigil held at Coventry Pride for the victims of the Pulse shooting. Image: Coventry Pride

On Sunday the 19 of June, a gunman opened fire on Pulse, a popular LGBT club in Orlando hosting a Latin night, and killed 50 people – all, his father claims, because he was repulsed by seeing two men kissing.

The reactions have been mixed. The LGBTIQA community has been placed in a turmoil of shock and mourning and disbelief. Vigils for the victims were pulled together within hours, with 600 attending one held by Free Pride in Glasgow, and Pride in London have announced a minute’s silence will feature in the parade on the 25 of June. With the Pride event, and dozens like it, comes a sense of fear for LGBTIQA people; what dangers will such a public and blatantly queer event bring for them? Are they going to be safe attending? Is it possible to be proud of their LGBTIQA identities without becoming another statistic, another queer person in the body count of the next ignorant attack?

The Green Party collated responses from several high profile members, all of whom expressed deep anger and sadness at the events of Sunday. These responses, including my own as LGBTIQA Young Greens co-chair, can be found here.

But sadly, the community cannot remain together in this collective moment of grief undisturbed. As seen not only in the disgraceful display of the discussion on Sky News which saw gay journalist Owen Jones walk out but in the responses from ordinary people on social media, many people are refusing to look this act of terrorism in the face and call it for what it is: homophobia.

Let me be utterly, unquestionably clear on this: the shooting in Orlando was terrorism against the LGBTIQA community because they were LGBTIQA.

Green LGBTIQ Spokesperson Aimee Challenor speaking at a vigil for the victims of the Orlando shooting. Image: Coventry Pride

Yes, the victims were all humans (LGBTIQA people generally are) but they were not killed for being human, and calling Orlando a human issue is massively erasing the problem of homophobia that caused the whole attack. If you are straight, cisgendered and not intersex, then it was not your community that was shot at on Sunday. If you are straight, cisgendered and not intersex then you do not share the same terror that the LGBTIQA community now face as they question their own safety. If you are straight, cisgendered, not intersex and still want to call yourself an ally then you need to stop silencing the voices of LGBTIQA people and erasing the problem of homophobia by claiming it is not an important part of the tragedy.

There are huge discussions to be had here, and they’re all about homophobia and ignorance. Why did the shooter find two men kissing so repulsive? Why did the shooter think that his actions were a justifiable reaction to homosexuality? Why did the shooter feel his personal opinions came above the human rights of the LGBTIQA community? Was the shooter aware that it was Latin night and he was targeting a particularly underprivileged intersection of the community?

While almost non-existent gun control laws contributed to the scale of the attack on Sunday, guns were not the cause, they were the weapon. If guns were banned, the shooter would have selected another (probably less effective) weapon, and carried on.

The only way that this will never happen again is by ending homophobia, transphobia and every other form of hatred towards the LGBTIQA community, and the only way that that will happen is if we actually talk about it by name.

Molly Arthurs

About Molly Arthurs

Molly is co-editor of Bright Green. They are also secretary for LGBTIQA+ Greens and sit on the Young Greens Structures and Procedures Committee. They study Classics at Royal Holloway university.