I was going to write an article on religious humanism for the next Humanist Blog post however I could not sit back and not speak my mind on recent events. As most of you will have heard on the news, on the early hours of Sunday morning (local time) in Orlando, Florida, 49 people were brutally murdered in cold blood at an LGBT nightclub, Pulse, by a gunman, apparently inspired by the barbaric ISIS group though the extent of their involvement remains unclear. The brutal massacre is the worst terrorist attack in the USA since 9/11.
Naturally this attack feels particularly close to home for me as an openly gay man as it feels as though such an attack could have easily happened to me, indeed many of the victims were young men around my age group. What makes the attack all the more shocking and disturbing is that it happened at a gay bar.
I’m not sure if a straight person can fully appreciate the significance of this. Even in relatively progressive countries like the UK, the fear of facing disgust, censure or even violence for public displays of affection, dressing in the clothes we feel comfortable in or acting ‘gay’, is a real and everyday experience for many LGBT people, myself included. Gay bars and clubs are places that are ours, where we can retreat to and feel safe to be ourselves, be around other people like us and do the things that straight people may take for granted. The fact that this attack happened inside a gay bar, where LGBT people thought they were safe, is deeply distressing as the one place many of us feel we can be ourselves has been violated and proven not as safe as we thought.
Another thing that this atrocity has highlighted to the LGBT community is that whilst we may have discrimination protections and equal marriage in many places now, the struggle for equality with straight people is not over. Until we can all feel safe to be who we are and can live our lives free of the threat of violence and hatred then the fight continues.
The fear now in the global LGBT community is of copycat attackers, homophobes who, inspired by the carnage in Orlando, may try their hand at doing the same again elsewhere. Fortunately in the UK at least it isn’t as easy to get a hold of the kind of weapons the gunman used and most bars have a good team of security to protect patrons however an assault rifle isn’t the only way to kill people and unsurprisingly people are still feeling nervous.
However, one thing the LGBT community has proven time and time again is the strength of our resolve and solidarity as a community. On Monday night, barely 24 hours after the attack, I attended a vigil for the victims on Lower Briggate, organized by local LGBT community groups and supported by Leeds City Council. There the resounding message was one of solidarity with our LGBT brothers and sisters around the world. We shall remain united in our love for each other and never give in to fear. Those who would seek our destruction, whose hearts are filled only with hate, shall discover as other homophobes have throughout modern history, that the LGBT community will never be silenced or bullied into submission. We shall continue to campaign for our rights, for an end to stigma and discrimination and continue to support and love one another as we have done from the beginning of our struggle.
Anyway, in the next week or so I will endeavour to finish my original article on religious humanism and hope to publish as soon as possible.