Today, on 12th June 2016, Orlando, Florida was shook when a 29 year old male massacred at least 49 innocent people in a gay nightclub in Orlando Florida. It has been reported that he pledged allegiance to the leader of so-called Islamic State prior to the mass murder. This has proved to be the deadliest mass shooting in US history!
Here in the United Kingdom, gay issues have taken a back seat over the last few years. Equal rights for gay marriage and the acceptance of homosexuality in mainstream media has lead to the LGBTQ community falling into a false sense of reassurance, a false feeling of acceptance. In my lifetime, I have not had to fight for the rights that I have taken advantage of and taken for granted nor have I, until recently, paid much attention to those who came before me who did. I have never felt a need to stand up for gay rights as I have been deluded – I thought that lesbian and gay people were seen as equal.
The waters of change ebb and flow; great advances in equality are often followed by reactionary attempts to curb gay rights. But generally we think the tide is moving in our favour and that we are on the right side of history. We see a successful LGBTQ Pride in Kyiv, European countries embracing the rainbow flag at Eurovision and growing numbers of countries around the world celebrate ‘gay’ marriages. But such tides can change quickly in either direction. To think that until 1967 homosexual acts between two consenting males in the UK was illegal. For decades before people risked their lives fighting for LGBTQ rights and with their bravery progress has been made. Hatred, however, still exists within our own country and whole swathes of the population denounce homosexuality.
There remain cultures within our society where homophobia is accepted, if not expected. Whether that be in inner city working class communities, the conservative Home Counties, lad culture or denominations of certain religions. It seems that while gay people in the UK have equal rights , many people continue to see homosexuality as a strange/abnormal life choice.
These days, rarely do you hear about the homophobic abuse that gay people endure on a day-to-day basis. Gay bashing continues to take place on an alarming scale, ‘lad culture’ where being gay is something to be ashamed of and mocked and the use of ‘gay’ as a derogatory term emphasises this opinion. Gay people are told regularly that they are an abomination in the eyes of God. Even within medicine, in my experience some continue to feel that homosexuality is fair game for insults and jokes. It is clear that there is still work to be done towards achieving true equality.
The problems here are almost insignificant when compared to the rest of the world. The authoritarian Russian government has developed a culture of hatred towards gay people and introduced homophobic laws in 2013 preventing expression of homosexual culture and life. The repealing of the legalisation of homosexuality in India in 2013 is another example of a progression of hatred towards our community. Homosexuality continues to be illegal in many countries around the world (Cameroon, Jamaica, India, Nigeria, Malaysia, Iran, Uganda, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan) and it is difficult to see what we can do to change this especially when those fighting prejudice and homophobic discrimination in their own countries are not protected by the law and are murdered without recourse.
Whether the attack in Orlando was a terrorist attack or a hate crime is almost irrelevant! It is another in a string of attacks based on hatred. Whether the target is the black community, Muslims, Christians, Jewish people, women or any other minority group, it must not be tolerated! Today, I feel under attack for being who I am. I wonder whether the hatred towards homosexuals from all quarters throughout the world is on the rise and if so I think we should all be concerned! In the UK we are fortunate to live in a time of great acceptance for people in our community but while such blatant acts of horrific violence continue to occur against LGBTQ individuals throughout the world, the fight for acceptance is not over! As the murdered Ugandan gay rights activist, David Kato said ‘A luta continua‘ – ‘the struggle continues!’
Love will always win over hatred!