Last night, I watched The Guardian columnist, Owen Jones walk off a SKY News program, after expressing his disbelief and horror at the refusal of the show’s presenter and fellow guest to acknowledge the homophobic horror of the mass murder in Orlando. I agree with him but, while admiring his restraint, would add shock and disgust. And to all my gay friends, I stand in defiance and solidarity against those who would hate.

Here, below, is a reproduction of his article in today’s The Guardian, explaining his decision to walk out. Its headline speaks for itself,

On Sky News last night, I realised how far some will go to ignore homophobia

Orlando was both a terrorist attack and a homophobic attack on LGBT people. It was both the worst mass shooting in US history, and the worst targeted mass killing of LGBT people in the western world since the Holocaust. It is possible for an atrocity to be more than one thing at the same time. You are not compelled to select one option or the other. Life – with both its horrors and its joys – is incredibly complicated, and we have a rich language able to capture its complexities.

I am reluctant to dwell too much on my appearance on Sky News last night, because this isn’t about me, so let’s just use it as a case study. In sum, I walked off in disgust during a discussion about the massacre: it was an instinctive reaction to an unpleasant and untenable situation. The presenter continually and repeatedly refused to accept that this was an attack on LGBT people. This was an attack “against human beings”, he said, and “the freedom of all people to try to enjoy themselves”. He not only refused to accept it as an attack on LGBT people, but was increasingly agitated that I – as a gay man – would claim it as such.

If a terrorist with a track record of expressing hatred of and disgust at Jewish people had walked into a synagogue and murdered 50 Jewish people, we would rightly describe it as both terrorism and an antisemitic attack. If a Jewish guest on television had tried to describe it as such, it would be disgraceful if they were not only contradicted, but shouted down as they did so. But this is what happened on Sky News with a gay man talking about the mass murder of LGBT people.

This isn’t about LGBT people taking ownership of the pain and anguish. People of all sexual orientations have wept over this massacre, and all communities should unite in grief. It is highly likely that straight people died in the atrocity. When the neo-Nazi terrorist David Copeland detonated a nail bomb in the Admiral Duncan gay pub in 1999, one of the fatalities was a straight pregnant woman, having a drink with her husband and her gay friends. LGBT people are part of the wider community, and LGBT people and their straight friends party together in LGBT venues. But this was a deliberate attack on a LGBT venue and LGBT people. According to Omar Mateen’s father, the reportedly Islamic State-supporting terrorist had expressed revulsion at the sight of two men kissing. His co-workers have described his anti-gay comments. Omar Mateen could have chosen many clubs, full of people laughing and living, but he chose a LGBT venue. This was homophobia as well as terrorism. It is not enough to simply condemn violence: we have to understand what it is and why it happened.

It wasn’t only Sky News at fault. In the New York Times’ original reporting, it didn’t even point out that a gay club had been targeted. The Daily Mail didn’t bother to put the atrocity – the worst terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11 – on its front page, instead opting to stir up xenophobia over Turkish immigrants and publicising an offer of “free pearl and white sapphire earrings”. This is erasure of LGBT people – pure and simple – after their community was horrifically targeted.

LGBT people are varied, and have different experiences: the life experiences of a young working-class gay black woman and a gay white male multi-millionaire CEO are very different. But we all grow up in a society that still treats us as if we are inferior: we have all repeatedly encountered homophobic abuse, the stress of coming out repeatedly, or the fear of holding hands with a partner in public. To imagine LGBT people who may have endured distress and internalised prejudice – just because of who they are – spending their last moments in terror as a homophobic terrorist hunted them down is just unbearable.

Today, the “we only care about LGBT rights if Muslims are involved” brigade are out in force. As a gay man, I am proud to live in a city represented by a Muslim mayor who has faced death threats for supporting and voting for LGBT people to have the same rights as everybody else. The bigots must not be allowed to hijack this atrocity.

Tonight at 7pm in Old Compton Street – in the heart of London’s LGBT community – LGBT people and straight people will link arms in memory of what happened in Orlando. Let it be a show of solidarity – and defiance against those who hate.

22 thoughts on “Disbelief, shock, horror, disgust

  1. I watched that clip this morning and felt his frustration too. How those two presenters could not grasp the clear homophobia of this crime was staggering! It was insulting and disrespectful in the extreme.
    Their inability to understand a different perspective makes them weak journalists IMO and pretty dim people to boot.
    The massacre in Orlando was heartbreaking and unjustifiable.

    Furthermore: what a fucked up world we live in where people can buy military grade weapons but a gay man has to be celibate for a year before he is allowed to donate blood. Disgraceful.
    apologies if my language offended you btw…

  2. I did not watch the clip, but I read his explanation and he is spot on. This is tragic no matter what name you want to give it… hate crime or terrorism. My thoughts are this… Omar Madeen was a wannabe Muslim extremist, who wanted to be noticed by the very people he aligned himself with… this nut also had been investigated by our FBI and was dismissed as not being a terrorist threat, which, as I think about it, may be another motive for him. He may have wanted to be seen as a threat, hoping that the ISIS leaders would take notice. He was filled with hate and chose to take it out on a group of people he saw as disgusting and vile. His sick mind saw it as a gift to give to “his leaders”. It was a hate crime… he did not walk into a mall, restaurant, or government building. He walked into a popular gay night club and opened fire, making sure the body count would be large. Owen Jones did the right thing by walking off because I have found that people such as the ones on this show don’t get it and no amount of debate will get them to understand. I also find it interesting that no one has pointed out that many of those killed were of Hispanic decent. There are so many reasons this man could have targeted these people… only he knows and he is dead, leaving the media to come up with their own reasons.

  3. Of all the social gathering places to hand he chose an LGBT venue during a very busy night and killed and injured 100+ people. I believe the evidence speaks for itself, this was a targeted group. It is not an over-reaction to say this; this is obvious.
    To say otherwise is simply incorrect and singularly baffling (I am being restrained here)

    • I can see the label, ‘Restraint Required’. The latest news is this man was a regular visitor to the Pulse club so now there’s speculation about whether he was casing the joint or a closet gay

      • I suspect he was doing the former. Classic terrorist tactic, familiarise yourself with the target area. Work out how and when to cause the maximum damage. No need to be part of a secret cell either. It’s the lone wolf who is now a danger and also a valuable asset to terrorist groups (they just post out on the net ‘Kill. Cause carnage. It is your duty’).

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