I have been grappling with the news of the shooting in Orlando. I saw a news headline and then avoided the news for several hours because I didn’t want to, couldn’t, think about what this means. But I couldn’t avoid it forever and when I did eventually look and engage with the news it felt like a punch to the stomach, the sort that leaves you breathless and eyes watering. It feels different than the recent terrorist attacks. I watched the coverage of those in a state of shock and grief somehow unable to tear myself away from the terrible rolling news coverage which was so full of assumptions and misleading information as well as sensationalist reporting. I cried lots. This is different. I can’t explain how this is different. I can’t put that into words. It is different because it feels personal. The Paris attacks felt like an attack on our freedom – something we (or maybe it’s just me) think about quite a bit but mostly in the abstract. Orlando wasn’t an attack on our freedoms it was an attack on us, on who we are. And because of that it’s too unfathomable.
To me this feels different because to me it feels personal. It’s an attack on my community and it feels weird writing that. I have never been a big part of the LGBTQ+ community. I have always fiercely protected my identity as ‘me’ not as part of a group. I have never strongly identified as a lesbian and I can count the number of times I have been in a gay club on one hand, the same is true for Pride events… . Today it somehow seems important to say it out loud, to be out and proud – not just be me but to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community, my community.
I have been struggling to make sense of all this – to understand. I’ve been trying to get my head around the background and context that allowed this to happen and I get that US gun laws allowed this to happen, I get that cultures and legal systems where homophobia and discrimination go unchecked allowed this to happen, I get that a society where religion can and is often used an excuse for bigotry allowed this to happen.. but still none of it makes sense to me. As I watched the Channel 4 News coverage the tears finally came and with the tears a feeling of total helplessness and a realisation of just how senseless this all is. Yes it is amazing to see the solidarity and support for the victims of the Orlando shooting across the world but what happens next?
How do we change the world? Thoughts and prayers won’t do it! My tears won’t do it. I don’t know what will but I do know that somehow the ‘we’ and ‘us’ and community has become really important. I don’t have the words – I’m just rambling. I’ll keep thinking and working through this. Others have expressed some of what I’m thinking already – take a look at Professor Chris Ashford’s blog post for a rather more coherent piece.