I have noticed something quite disconcerting within the LGBT community, it’s a feeling that I have not experienced since coming out. A feeling of disconnect, confusion and sadness almost to the point of embarrassment. While this is not directed at people in particular it is disheartening that the community I once loved, that at one point made me feel safe is changing.
I’ve have witnessed first hand the strength that this community has shown. We have tackled so many issues both together and separately with integrity and self respect, in saying that we have also shown a very ugly side as well. I liken it to playing happy families, we can have a beautiful facade yet behind the scenes there is chaos, anger and pain. There are some studies I find so alarming, for instance it has been reported that up to 16% of young lgbt people (16-27) have attempted suicide. That number rises even further for the transgender community.
What pushes us to these actions? What makes us to consider ending it all, just for that reprieve? The urge and hunger to stop the pain and just be at peace, it’s knowing that we will no longer feel like we are second rate citizens, we won’t cry ourselves to sleep or be ashamed of the life we live. I then then come to by far the most troubling question, how many of these deaths have been at the hands of someone within our own community? People we identify with, those who are fighting the same fight and feeling the same things we have.
We have seen events around the world shake us on so many levels in recent times, one of the most notable being the Orlando shooting. A senseless attack on a night club that is often viewed by many as so much more than a vibrant and enjoyable destination on a night out. This is a feeling we can all identify with, we see these places as safe havens, places in which we can be ourselves and not feel as though we may be attacked or judged, a place where we are surrounded by people just like us.
The events that unfolded are beyond comprehension and there is no possible way you can justify the loss of 49 lives and the injuries sustained by more than 50 other patrons. This was a personal attack made by someone who couldn’t possibly understand how it feels to be different, an attack on a community already struggling to belong and a community that prides itself on acceptance regardless of sexual identity, race, religion and sex etc. This in turn gave the LGBT population a chance to be seen as well as heard. At this point in time all eyes were on us, we all had a chance to speak up and let our voices be heard, we also had the opportunity to let our actions speak louder than what we may have said. In many ways I believe that we held ourselves to the highest of standards although there were times that we made major errors.
We witnessed the true meaning of solidarity and camaraderie through fundraising efforts as well as vigils that were held in cities all over the world. This gave us the much needed focus and understanding we have craved, we were perceived in a different light by the wider public because we let our actions show who we truly were. That bought positives from such a horrendous act of violence, some of those who may have been opposed to what they describe as a lifestyle choice became accepting, they opened up and were more willing to hear our side and how we felt on a situation so close to our hearts as well as a cause that many have dedicated half their lives to fight.
Contrary to the positivity we were able to create we also acted in a way that those who oppose our beliefs saw as a chance. They saw our actions as ammunition, we publicly contradicted ourselves without even minimal forethought as to how things would be perceived and the consequences that could soon follow. Many don’t realise that if you belong to minority then the reactions often affect every person within that community. We may not share particular views but because of things that are said you will notice that it has now been connected to every member of the community.
We acted in haste and showed an immense amount of hate and ignorance. We launched attacks on so many, we began attacking people of a different race and people of different religions. While these weren’t physical attacks many of us should be able to comprehend how much more damaging verbal attacks can be, they have the ability to crush a person and contradict an entire community. We fail to see that everything we say or do represents not only a single person but every single one of us.
While it may feel good to make that comment or post on Facebook it really isn’t worth the negative backlash that the entire community will receive. These comments can take just seconds to post, so little time, yet it can cause months or years of back stepping. Our cause does not have the luxury to keep moving one step forward only to take three steps backward. Let’s face it that emotion that you may feel will change, it will subside.
The perception from an outside party stays a lot longer and also leaves us with the job of changing it, that can take time to do as people are different, some can be less forgiving and hold this against us for much longer than others. We are now focussing on changing the way people perceive us instead of other more important factors.
I say these things because I want to see younger generations that are not afraid to be themselves, I want to see a community that one day will be truly accepted and can honestly say that they feel like an equal. It is as simple as filtering what we put out to others around us, not making that comment in which we have told someone to kill themselves or attacked another. This will only ensure that we aren’t contradicting ourselves and therefore will have no reason for the back stepping. It will be then that we will truly able to move forward with such an important cause.
We can’t expect others to fully accept us if we constantly shun and ridicule people both from our community as well as those around us. Let’s spread love just as much as we are fighting for our right to love without prejudice.