Photo of Suran Dickson

Suran Dickson

Reflections after the attack in Orlando

Tuesday June 14, 2016

Our Chief Executive, Suran Dickson, shares her thoughts following the attack in Orlando this weekend.

It’s hard to comprehend the sudden and sickening change in atmosphere; people dancing and joking with friends, are, split seconds later, running for their lives, watching as fellow clubbers fall to the floor around them. Waiting for a bullet must be the epitome of abject terror. Whether there were political aims to Omar Mateen’s killing spree remains to be seen, but without doubt, he masterminded a night of terrorism for club-goers in Orlando.

We don’t yet know what fueled his rampage but what we can assume, is that like so many of us, Omar Mateen would’ve absorbed the messages around him. The messages in homophobic rap songs that violence against gay men is a positive expression of masculinity, the messages ISIS deliver when they throw terrified, gay men from buildings, the messages from transphobic politicians that transgender people aren’t welcome to use bathrooms in which they feel safe.

Most of us have the ability to apply reason to these messages, to filter out the negativity, to want our fellow humans to be healthy and happy. A small minority don’t have this ability and combine this deficit with fundamentalist views, severe mental health issues or an upbringing that has left one so scarred and angry that hurting others is the only salve to the wound, and we have events like those in Orlando this weekend.

In the face of this, we must retain our commitment to eradicating the world of anti-LGBT messages, we must continue to reframe masculinity so violence is no longer a replacement for emotions, we must educate our children so they don’t respond with fear to those who look or sound different.

We might not be able to stop the Omar Mateens of this world from lashing out in such a devastating manner, but we can break down the prejudice that have led some to diminish the impact, to ignore it completely, or to celebrate because the club was filled with ‘gay perverts’. And if current suggestions that the gunman used gay dating apps are proven true, and internalized homophobia becomes a piece of the puzzle, there is an even stronger case for sexuality education in schools which eliminates stigma and celebrates difference.

LGBT communities across the world stand saddened but steely as we head into Pride season. We stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters who are also victims of terrorism, we stand with families of the Bataclan victims, we stand with all our fellow humans who are as filled with despair as we are at such an atrocity.

We know it could have been any one of us; very few countries are immune to terrorism or homophobia. And after the vigils, after Pride, we will continue to educate prejudice away, to encourage young people to challenge hate where they see it, and to love without fear and without shame.

‘nobody should be scared to love’ - Year 5 student, DRM workshop

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