I keep my interests to myself. Mostly because people tend to not understand them. I read m/m books almost exclusively…actually I’ve accidentally bought m/f books twice this year and not read them. I just don’t want to. I spent much of my time at university reading up on LGBT history and culture, frequently finding excuses to write papers on them. I champion any and all things LGBT whenever I can, music, film TV, art. It just speaks to me. My undergraduate dissertation was a reading of various famous LGBT books, asking questions about what masculinity is and how much the two appear to be almost impossible to reconcile together. I loved having so much autonomy over what I could write about so I decided to complete my Masters straight after I graduated. I took a Queer Theory class and never looked back. It was literally the most amazing module I have ever taken in my life. I didn’t always get it. I sometimes interpreted things differently but I enjoyed the experience so much I decided to write my final dissertation as a Queer reading of gothic horror novels, heavily focusing on lesbianism and homosexuality, anything from HIV to the tongue as an object of sex. It got pretty graphic at times but I loved writing it because it moulded the two things I am really drawn to both as a reader and a writer – the gothic and queer theory. It was wonderful and I toyed with the idea of moving onto a PhD, even writing a basic skeleton of what my research paper would look like. Money and illness from stress from my last job meant I couldn’t do it though. Maybe someday.
So why am I telling you all of this? It’s simple really. With all of my studies, all of my interest, I seem to become more and more aware of the fact that with all of our progress over the decades, the LGBTQI community are still painfully vulnerable to becoming eradicated from our society. It’s galling to me that after all the work that was put into making this community of human beings has resulted in just token representation in mainstream films, TV shows and even music, that there are still people (many of whom in power) who would deny people basic rights such as the right to marry, having the same benefits as married people, or basic worker’s rights – simply because they are gay or trans. It is 2016 and this is still happening.
One of the biggest – and for me, truly horrifying – examples of this is the investigation into the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The man who shot and killed 49 people, injuring over 50 more, was a Muslim and possible gay himself. Now, there have been varying reports of his possible homosexuality, from a man who came forward to claim he actually had a physical relationship with Mateen to multiple reports of his sighting at the club itself before the shooting, to those who may or may not have seen him on gay hookup apps. The evidence is circumstantial and a little confused.
Whatever the evidence gathered by the FBI – and I am not totally clear on what evidence they did find – I am appalled by the fact they have announced that the shooting was not a hate crime against the LGBT community. It wreaks of basically denying the suffering and tragic loss the entire community experienced, not just in Orlando, not just in the US, but everywhere. There were tears here in London, just one street away from where I work in Soho, people lined the street to stand with them, cry with them, be strong for them. That is nothing now? What?
Journalist Owen Jones stormed off the Sky News set the morning after the shooting when he stated that this had been “a homophobic terrorist attack”. Mark Longhurst responed with”against human beings… it’s an attack on the freedom of all people to try and enjoy themselves”. Really? You know what this sort of response smells like, when those who don’t understand what Black Lives Matter stands for and preach that All Lives Matter. It’s like when Pride comes around once a year and people say well how come there isn’t a Heterosexual Day? Or Black History Month (why no white history month?) Get it? I don’t blame Owen Jones for storming off. Far better to remove yourself from the situation than to lose it completely. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for him. To have two people looking at him and telling him that he didn’t matter. That his very sense of who he was had not come under attack by this man’s actions. That his loss, horror and pain as a gay man was the same as theirs. I wouldn’t have held back. Today Ofcom announced that they would not be investigating the interview on Sky News because both Longhurst and columnist Julia Hartley-Brewer “were simply attempting to highlight the impact of terror attacks on society more broadly.” Except that in doing so they erased everything about what happened that night. Who was under attack. Why they were under attack. Think. Just think.
It was an attack on gay people. It was. Regardless of Mateen’s faith or mental health. He drove way out of his way, armed with an assault rifle and shot into an entire room full of people he hated for no other reason than that they were gay. He could have gone anywhere else large crowds gather. Fairs, the beach, supermarkets, an office building, any other club in Orlando! Literally anywhere. He chose Pulse. A gay club.
Here is why it is so damn important to recognise this crime for the hate crime it was. For so long, the LGBT community has had to fight for basic rights. They are invisible because of their sexuality or because of their gender identification. Because they don’t fit into what society and history tells us is ‘normal’. That isn’t fair. And when they are considered, it is to be told that they are nothing people who should be treated as less than everybody else. Imagine your own mother never looking at you, never acknowledging your existence, unless it was to call you disgusting or foul, just because you were a girl or a boy or you liked the colour blue instead of yellow or you liked chocolate spread but not peanut butter. Doesn’t that sound stupid to you? I’ve said time and time again that I don’t understand why it’s supposed to be the business of so many people (in religion, in government etc) who or what kind of sex people are having or what bathroom they feel most comfortable using. My God, I really don’t.
The FBI, in denying that this is a hate crime, are denying the LGBT community their pain. They have made them totally invisible in all of this, like they don’t matter at all and that is unacceptable. In June 2015, Dylan Roof, stormed a Church in South Carolina and then proceeded to shoot and kill 9 people who were attending Bible study. Amongst his many charges for the shooting, includes a hate crime charge. Roof attacked a room full of defenceless people, in a Church, paying no mind to who they were. Whatever his reasons, his actions were clearly seen as an act of total hatred by targeting a specific group of people. Religious hate. Racial hate. Of course, this had to be a hate crime.
Just because Omar Mateen is not alive to confess as to why he did what he did, just because he didn’t leave a manifesto telling us why he did it, doesn’t mean his crime wasn’t fuelled by hate. Everybody was so quick to brand him a terrorist because he was a Muslim (a bad one I might add because he killed almost 50 people but a Muslim nonetheless!) No, he was a terrorist because he incited hatred, he was a terrorist because he took an assault rifle and shot it at any moving object and didn’t care what or who he hit. And he did this in a gay nightclub, targeting specific people. He doesn’t have to tell you himself that he targeted these people. Common sense dictates that we all see this for what it is, a hate crime against the LGBT community. It is literally common sense.
Such a denial from the FBI speaks to just how much the LGBTQI community is in danger of becoming totally invisible once again. This can’t happen. The community is under attack. Law enforcement must wake up to this fact and protect the community from hate, not become part of the problem too. Not again.