Orlando Attack Happened Because of Hatred Toward LGBT People

Orlando LGBT Vigil
A woman takes pictures with her phone during a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, at Oxford Street in Sydney, Australia on June 13. Fifty people were killed and 53 injured after a gunman opened fire in the gay nightclub in Florida. Daniel Munoz/Getty Images

We should be in no doubt about what the motivation was for the tragic events in Orlando.

And yet, over the past few days, as people try to make sense of this attack, there has been a reaching for reassurance that there was a cause, a reason, that we as a society can point a finger at something that could make such violence possible.  

Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia as an answer, for some, seemed too simple an explanation. Or, perhaps, too unpleasant to think about. Yes, this was an act of terror, but we must accept that the reason that this attack happened exactly where it happened was because of hatred toward lesbian, gay, bi and trans people. There is no denying that this was a homophobic hate crime.

In looking for another motivation, people are inadvertently compounding the hurt that the LGBT community is feeling at this time. As people stumble about looking for another ‘reason’ or ‘explanation', ignoring the homophobic, biphobic and transphobic motive, they simultaneously disregard our daily experiences of hate crime.

They may not have noticed our ever-watchful eyes that monitor social situations, trying to work out if it is safe to the hold hands of our partners. We are living in a world that doesn’t fully accept LGBT people, and we know this only too well.

Use of rainbow tints for social media profiles is widespread. This is welcome and important because it shows the breadth of support for the LGBT community, especially from allies who are crucial to making the message of acceptance reach further than our community can. But at the same time, hatred of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people continues to cast a dark shadow on communities throughout the world.

The truth is that this horrific hate crime won’t come as a surprise to LGBT people. Only last year, the wife of one of my colleagues was viciously attacked for dressing outside of her gender norms—she wore a tie. Whether you see it or not, lesbian, gay, bi and trans people are still attacked and ostracized every day for no other reason than they are who they are.

More than 100 hate crimes are committed against LGBT people every week. Hatred toward and discrimination against trans people is also rife, and so much goes unreported.

In more than half the world LGBT people may not be protected against workplace discrimination and in 73 countries around the world sex with someone of the same sex is illegal.   

Trans laws are lagging woefully behind, both in the U.K. and abroad. And it shows in the hate crime statistics. Up to a third of trans people experience anti-trans abuse every year (Galop, 2014). Transphobic hate crime has risen every year for the past four years.

I would suggest that the reason there has been such reluctance to accept that this attack was motivated by homophobic, biphobic and transphobic attitudes is because we then have to accept the truly unpalatable. That homophobia, biphobia and transphobia is very much alive and well, and we know this. It exists in our workplaces, our schools and in our communities, and quite often it goes unchallenged. And while it might not lead people to commit acts of violence, it is still acceptable to be abusive toward LGBT people.

Homophobic comments are made and sometimes this abuse isn’t greeted with shock but laughter. Children still use the taunt of ‘that’s so gay’ and people turn a deaf ear.

Role models in our communities make hateful statements about the LGBT community, and we nominate them for awards.

It’s still acceptable to be homophobic and it is truly sobering and sad that it takes a tragedy like this to bring this to everyone’s attention.

We hope that this tragedy will make people sit up and realise that we still have a problem. The fight isn’t over.

This weekend has been a reminder of how important it is for us to stand in solidarity as a community, and with allies, who are so important to our movement.

Thousands of people in Orlando, and across the world, have stepped up to support LGBT people. Many of these people will have been allies. We are so grateful to you, and to all allies who continue to support LGBT people everywhere. Thank you.

The lesbian, gay, bi and trans community is strong, beautiful and wonderfully diverse. We will continue to stand tall and support one another with love, kindness and open arms.

Please join us in doing so. Stand by the side of all LGBT people everywhere, and recognise the specific forms of discrimination that many of them face, whether it’s as a result of disability, gender identity, ethnicity or indeed faith. Many LGBT Muslims are feeling particularly vulnerable in the wake of the Orlando attack, as some people continue to claim that faith committed this heinous crime. It didn’t. An individual did.

Let’s also not forget to love, embrace, support and look out for one another. This is an extremely dark time for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people around the world, but we must look towards a brighter future.

Remember your loved ones, allies, and how far we have all come, together.

We still have so much left to do until all lesbian, gay, bi and trans people can live freely as themselves without fear of discrimination, but we will get there. We will continue to work for acceptance without exception, and we will do that together.

Ruth Hunt is the chief executive of UK-based lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans equality charity Stonewall, the largest LGBT equality body in Europe.