What does the Orlando shooting mean?

WORDS: Kurtis Hughes and Claudia Poposki

The opinions in this piece are that of the authors, and are not reflective of the Tertangala or the University of Wollongong

This week, the world has mourned the shooting at Pulse in Orlando. The world has argued about the events that took place. Now, we take a look at the effects of this hate crime.

Hate crime/LGBTQ+ community effect

It has been 38 years since iconic gay rights activist and politician, Harvey Milk, was shot dead in San Francisco’s City Hall. He lived with the maxim that hope, the hope we have for a brighter future, will never be silenced.

Milk, against the ideas of his society, strived for a world where debates around rights and freedoms were not dependent on a person’s sexuality, or their expression of gender. With great conviction, he plead the LGBTQ+ community, both hidden and out, declare and embrace their identity. To Harvey Milk, the personal and public attribution of one’s sexuality was the biggest political statement one could make in the fight for their personal rights.

Living in a state of openness against the cacophony of lies and contempt driven by the traditionalists of his society, was then – as is now – a profound act of political activism.

49 people were killed, and another 53 injured, in a shooting at a gay nightclub on the weekend. The shooting, which took the lives of many people of colour enjoying the Latin night at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub, ironically occurred during the U.S. Pride Month.

The image of two men exchanging a kiss has been said to be the catalyst for these events, as told by the father of the shooter. Two human beings, who wished to share a moment of brief intimacy and affection, repulsed a man so much he took it upon himself to open fire on over a hundred people.

Our bodies are questioned plains, occupied and prodded by the constant flood of politicized agenda’s, which aim to take root in our very existence. To live in a state of openness is to put the potential of harm upon yourself, and others.

Walking down the street holding hands is to display a target on your body, with every passerby an impending shot forcing you back into the secrecy and faux smiles you perfectly crafted within the closet.

These acts of discrimination and hatred are apart of life, and the places of safety are few and far. For decades, we have been thrown out churches, schools and families. These clubs and parades have become a celebration of our pride and our survival.

When you see a member of the LGBTQ+ community, stifling in fear and paranoia, it is because the very spaces we have confided in for security and care, have been violated. They are all one and the same. Every light projected across the room, catches a face etched deep with a lifetime of pain, whether acknowledged or not in its current state of euphoria.

A million times over we have been knocked down, and a million times we have found the strength to keep moving. But the events that occurred on the weekend have reminded us about those that came before and those who continue to get squashed and removed by the oppressive thumb of another’s moral code.

Soon the binary will be re-established; us and them. But for today, the world is #PrayForOrlando.

Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull’s initial statement of condolence failed to even recognise the sexual identity of the victims. His condemnation of the events as proclaimed acts of hate and anger merely scratched the surface of the suffering that took place, keeping in line with the Liberal Party’s domestic approach to same-sex marriage within Australia.

Turnbull later issued a supplementary statement, clarifying that the shooting was clearly a “murderous attack on gay people”.

He wasn’t the only one who removed the full identities of those involved, several politicians actively perpetuating the LGBTQ+ status as ‘other’, and erased the years of bravery and resilience that got them to even stand in a place like Pulse Nightclub. It is this rhetoric, subtle and understated, that emboldens and solidifies the views of a malicious few who wish to take arms against a place like Pulse Nightclub, where people dared to simply exist.

Gun control
The Pulse shooting was the 15th mass shooting in America in June, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Whilst the horrific crime against the LGBTQ+ and the fact that these people still can’t feel safe in society is the main issue to come from the Orlando shooting, there is still the issue surrounding gun control.

With every mass shooting, there are calls for tighter gun controls in a country where your right to bare arms is only outranked by your freedom of speech. However, there are always the naysayers. The ones who say, “Blaming the tool is a red herring away from the ideology that caused the act. Could have been done with a pressure cooker,” like Minneapolis security expert Chris Tobkin posted online according to news.com.au

When something happens so often, and so repeatedly, people become numb to it. It’s like seeing your city’s skyline so much you eventually stop seeing the beauty in it. But, these are people’s lives. How can people just sit back and be okay with the possibility someone they love could be next, all because they wanted to protect themselves from some kind of invisible enemy?

In the same city just a day before, Christina Grimmie, YouTube star and ex-Voice contestant was shot, and eventually died, whilst signing autographs for fans. Some say this is the price of being a celebrity, but I say this is the price of living in a country where gun control is so relaxed, you can purchase guns in department stores.

In his statement, President Barack Obama said, “This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theatre, or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.”

I wonder if he is sick of making statements like this yet, or if the American public is sick of holding vigils for their neighbors, brothers, sisters and friends? It’s not as though it hasn’t been proven gun control works. So, why are they dragging their feet?

Well, because of fear mongering. People use this opportunity to preach love, but also to spread hate. Republican candidate Donald Trump said on CNN’s News Day, “If people in that room had guns, with the bullets flying in the opposite direction right at [attacker Omar Mateen], right at his head, you wouldn’t have had the same tragedy that you ended up having. And nobody even knows how bad that tragedy is, because I think probably the numbers will get bigger and bigger and worse and worse.”

I mean, really, how can you really fault people for listening to someone with such a loud voice offering a solution? Albeit, the wrong one, but when people are floundering, this makes sense. Those who support the tightening of gun control need to speak louder and over the hate and fear mongering. That is the only way stricter gun control will win out.

Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy just held a 14-hour filibuster in the Senate in an attempt to create legislation that would let the government bar sales of guns and explosives to people it suspects of being terrorists. However, this was attempted by another after the San Bernadino shootings. Will this just be another motion, or will this be the first step of change?

With every attack like this, it seems as though the Islamic community has to defend themselves against attack, saying these attacks do not reflect the religion. The Islamic Centre for Orlando was quick to condemn the hate crime, stating, “At, ICO, We strongly condemn the shooting attack in Orlando. No religious tradition can ever justify nor condone such ruthless and senseless acts of violence. Our prayers and condolences go out to the family and loved ones of the victims.”

They urged people to give blood, breaking their Ramadan fast, saying, “A broken fast can be made up, a life lost is gone forever.”

Saleem Haddad posted an image with the caption, “My heart goes out to the victims of the homophobic attack in Orlando. So here is a photo of three Arab men in drag. Because fuck homophobia and fuck Islamophobia, and fuck the hypocrites who use one to justify the other. You all have blood on your hands.”

He continued, “And if this photo offends you, you have blood on your hands too.”

Woah, I came out of the cinema and all hell has broken loose on social media. First Beirut then Orlando and now my photograph has gone viral. This is a photo of my beautiful friends that I took on Saturday night expressing themselves openly and freely and not a staged one of them 'posing in solidarity'. I'm dizzy. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the families of the victims. So much hate in people's hearts it makes me sick. 💔 When will the ethnic, religious and sexual hate and prejudice stop? Free yourself from labels whatever your faith, sexuality or skin color. We are one global community and the love should spread between us altogether. . #PrayforPeace #PrayForPulse #PrayForOrlando #LoveIsLove #beirut #orlando #love #peace #acceptance #NoToHate #StopTheViolence #Pray @scoopempire

A post shared by EMAN إيمان (@eman___ali___) on

This is the image in question, taken from the photographer, Eman A’s instagram. I think these heartfelt and honest contributions to stop the hate and assist in the aftermath of the terrible hate crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community that have taken place. Instead of the hate that has been preached by a number of political leaders, which I refuse to post here.