June is celebrated as Pride Month in US to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969. But this June was a tragic reminder of how vulnerable the LGBT community remains even in so called safe spaces when a gunman went about shooting people at a gay club called Pulse in Orlando, US. The exact motive of the gunman, identified as Omar Mateen, remains unclear, but homophobia surely was the driving force behind the attack that killed 49 people.
Omar’s father said that he had got agitated after seeing two men kiss, possibly pointing to his hatred towards the LGBT community as the motive. Then again, there have been claims by various gay men and his own wife that Omar was gay himself, leading some to believe that internalised homophobia might have driven him to this extreme step. Him owing allegiance to ISIS minutes before being killed further complicates the matter. ISIS has been know to murder homosexuals in gruesome manner in territory controlled by it. Whichever angle one looks at, homophobia remains at the centre of it.
The Orlando shooting comes within two months of another gruesome murder of LGBT activists in Bangladesh. The general notion is that LGBT community is vulnerable in countries with homophobic laws, or in third world countries, while the West is considered as much safer. But the Orlando incident shows that it is not just in Islamic or African countries where the LGBT community remains unsafe. Despite advances, LGBT community is vulnerable even in the West. Homophobia remains a cause of concern worldwide.
Despite all this, we must remember that we must not cower or hide back in the closet. We must win over people and their “phobias” by educating them, by being open and showing them that there is no basis of their hatred. Such attacks want to install fear in our minds. We must be resilient and defeat such people through our fearless actions.
Sukhdeep Singh is the Founding Editor of Gaylaxy magazine which is India’s largest English language LGBT magazine. He grew up in Kolkata, in a Sikh family and in a liberal atmosphere. While studying in college he launched Gaylaxy magazine in 2010, which is now also available as an App. His message to the world is: “Treat everyone equally, with love and dignity.”