The importance of recognising the Orlando shootings as a homophobic attack

The importance of recognising the Orlando shootings as a homophobic attack

And trying to get away from using it to feed Islamophobia.

Words by James Schofield and Troy Mutton. Header image via.

As you've no doubt heard, early this morning (Australian time) Omar Saddiqui Mateen stormed a LGBT-friendly nightclub in Orlando, Florida armed with an assault rifle and handgun and opened fire on its patrons. As it stands 50 are dead (including the gunman), with that many and some injured in the deadliest shooting attack in US history. The horrific events are an absolute hotbed of controversial topics in America right now: refugees, terrorism, gay rights, gun laws, Islam...

The shooter, being a Muslim, somehow gave Donald Trump the opportunity to pat himself on the back and thank his followers for being so right on radical Islamic terrorism (seemingly ignoring the detail that the shooter was, in fact, born in the US):

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Meanwhile, Texas politician Dan Patrick, who it should be noted as about as anti-LGBT as you're likely to find, posted a psalm implying men are responsible for their fate:

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Which leads to a fact that at various points so far in the (admittedly) very early discussions surrounding Orlando - tragically, and dangerously, the homophobic nature of the attack has been getting pushed to the side. No more so evidenced than in this cringe-worthy video, featuring Guardian columnist Owen Jones on Sky News trying his best to point out that this was a homophobic hate crime, and experiencing great difficulty doing so, to the point of finding himself forced to walk out:

And why is this important? The shooter walked into a gay club and openly targeted members of the LGBTQI community, is reported to have been inspired to do so by having witnessed two homosexual men kissing publicly in Miami (as per quotes by the shooter’s own father). By ignoring this fact, politicians like Donald Trump and our own Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, are using the tragedy of the Orlando attack to reinforce their tough stance on refugees, immigration and Islamic terrorists. 

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Images via: Thought Catalog

But when you look at Tweets like the ones above, the devastating effect this has had on the LGBTI community, and the importance of recognising this as having been expressly a homophobic terrorist attack, can not be understated. Likewise, the strong undercurrent of homophobia cannot be ignored, and while this attack is indeed one against "all of our freedoms", pushing aside the homophobic nature of these events is at best disrespectful, at worst harmful to future acceptance within all communities of people, no matter their sexual orientation.

In earnest, the use of this tragic event as a political tool in any context is a gross exploitation of real pain that does no real service to legitimate change and/or equality. As echoed by the sentiment expressed by author Mattilda B Sycamore above, the image it sends for this horrible event to see usage as a tool for any agenda is perverse and unjust. We cannot, after all, perpetuate any belief that may instill thoughts in LGBTQI individuals the world over that they only matter when they are dead. Or worse, that they don't matter at all.

In all sincerity, the only moral and rational response to this latest tragedy - one so overtly and obviously aimed at taking LGBTQI lives - is not to use it as a tool of any kind, nor as a means to fuel or forward any agenda. Rather, it must be used as an opportunity to express solidarity, and to express defiance. It must be seen as a reason to turn to every LGBTQI individual the world over and say to them “I love you” and stand by their side, to protect them and to love them. It must be seen as a reason not to turn to hate, but to embrace love and to embrace positivity.

The victims of this horrific crime would wish that, as much as their loved ones and all of those impacted by the events in Orlando would wish, and need, the very same. The truth of this horrible crime cannot be erased, and sadly nor can the lives lost be won back. But it is never too late for change, there is never one moment where the presence of love is not needed and now is the time for solidarity. Brothers and sisters of the LGBTQI community we stand beside you. We stand with you. We love you.

If you're wondering what you can do to help the victims of this attack, SBS ran a great article EARLIER TODAY.

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