It’s Monday morning in the UK. Less than 24 hours ago, we began to hear that a man with a gun had entered Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Since then, the news media and social media alike have been struggling to process what has happened. We live in a world of 24 hour news, where reactions are instant, and emotional.
There has been a major problem with most of the coverage I have seen and heard, though; it has felt seriously straight/cis/white-washed. Let me be clear: this violence was perpetuated against gay, bi, trans, and queer people because they are gay, bi, trans, and queer. It’s not an attack on “American values” or “the freedom of all people to try and enjoy themselves“, it was an attack on queer people in their own space. Perhaps, he chose a Latin night specifically, perhaps that was a coincidence, we will probably never know, but we do know that the victims we know about so far are almost exclusively Latin@.
Our responses to this tragedy matter. Who we give voice to matters. I have not yet heard the voices of queer people of colour in the British media. I have barely heard any LGBTQ+ voices at all. Owen Jones has been widely criticised for walking off a Sky News newspaper review, when his emotional request that this terrorist attack be claimed as a specific hate crime was cut off repeatedly by both the host and his fellow guest. Furthermore, the Today Programme on Radio 4 this morning included a segment in which “Christian Concern” were allowed to claim that gender neutral school uniforms are damaging to children, in which John Humphries asserted that the existence of only two genders is, “just a fact”.
On top of all this is the narrative that claims that because this terrorist was of Afghan descent, there is a need to deal with “Muslim” violence. This is despite the fact that the man arrested on the way to L.A. Pride with a cache of weapons was white (and has hardly been reported). Islam is not the problem. Hate is the problem. Every politician or commentator who challenges our right to marry, or to use a public toilet, or to do our jobs – whatever their faith or political affiliation – is the problem. Every “I’m not homophobic, but…”, every “love the sinner, but hate the sin”, every “there are only two genders” is another step on the road to the attack at Pulse.
One last thing – the language of “madness” and “lunatics” will get you nowhere. As a narrative, it’s designed to challenge the idea that Islam is violent, and I support that aim, but let’s just say, “Islam is not a violent religion,” and not start to throw mud at vulnerable people with poor mental health just to make that point.
So, let’s choose our words carefully. Let’s choose whose voices we are putting out there. Give LGBTQ+ people a platform, give a platform to queer and allied faith leaders, and tell the stories of the victims. We are scared, we are vulnerable, and we might not say what you think you want to hear, but please – let us speak.