A 'How-Not-To-Style-Your-Life' Guide

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Living In Fear

I want to start this by saying that this post is not about me. I am not looking for entitlement, attention or sympathy. Everything I’m thinking has already been said by those who are far more qualified and eloquent than myself. I am a drop in the ocean of a community grieving the loss of our innocent brothers and sisters in Orlando. Whilst the opinions I will express are my own, a unified message is clear: we, as LGBTQ+ people from all countries and walks of life, refuse to live in fear.

When I checked my phone after my shift at work on Sunday afternoon, the only thing I could feel was sadness. I scrolled through my Twitter back to when the news broke, reading hours and hours’ worth of tweets expressing frustration about US gun laws, sending love to the friends and families of victims and demonstrating solidarity within the LGBTQ+ community. I work in a coffee shop that sees hundreds of people coming in every day, and what I can’t stop thinking about is that between the news breaking around midday and me checking my phone at 5pm, not one customer even mentioned it.

At the time, this didn’t even spring to mind. It wasn’t until I awoke the next day to the footage of Owen Jones walking off the set of Sky News that it hit me. Aside from my primarily queer and forward thinking Twitter feed, the perception of the Orlando tragedy has been decidedly heteronormative.

There is simply no denying that the tragic attack on Pulse nightclub on the 12th of June 2016 was a hate crime against the LGBTQ+ community. There is also reasonable evidence to suggest that the lone wolf shooting was motivated by an extremist ideology and an allegiance to ISIL. These two sad facts exist together. It is not a case of one or the other. So, for someone to ignore the victims as being LGBTQ+ and simply call it an attack on “all Americans” demonstrates the degree of heteronormativity that plagues both our media and society as a whole.

‘Heteronormativity’ is the kind of buzzword that you see floating around the Internet, but at its core is a sad truth about the world we live in. First coined by queer theorist Michael Warner in 1990, the term ‘heteronormativity’ describes the archaic view that the male/female gender binary is inherently complementary; consequently, heterosexuality is deemed the ideal sexuality (the ‘norm’) and systematically oppresses all other sexual cultures that do not adhere to the hetero monoculture.

Gay people and other members of the LGBTQ+ community are not looking for ownership of grief over the Orlando massacre. To even suggest such an idea is truly disgusting. The 12th of June stands as the worst mass shooting by a single person in US history, but is also the largest mass murder of LGBTQ+ people in Western society since the Holocaust. There is simply no way that we could gain from the loss to our community that was sustained on Sunday morning. The reason that we are emphasising this tragedy as a hate crime against LGBTQ+ people is because we refuse to be erased from history as we have been in the past.

Straight people are so blissfully unaware of the privilege that society has granted them. When they kiss their partners in public, they don’t have to worry about becoming victims of verbal or even physical abuse. They won’t be accused of being ashamed of who they are because they’re scared just to hold their loved one’s hand whilst walking down the street. They aren’t denied the ability to give blood or hospital visitation rights to a dying partner or their basic human rights in more countries than I care to disclose. They don’t have to worry about being disowned by their family simply because of who they love.

The reason that gay clubs and bars and Pride exist is because we have no choice but to choose our own happiness. We have to work so much harder for it and create small places of safety in a world that seems determined to hurt us. In these places, we are free to express who we are, wear what we want and hug and kiss the people we love without fear of persecution. For someone as evil as the gunman in Orlando to defile these places and deem his own ideology as being more important than the beautiful lives of 49 innocent people is a wound that will take years to heal.

But do you know what? It will heal. The memory of Orlando and those who died expressing who they are without fear will become our community’s scar tissue. Their strength will make us stronger and will never fade away. The memories of those we lost at the hands of hatred in the early hours of Sunday morning will only make our love more powerful. For them, we will stand together in greater numbers, dance for longer and sing louder. We will cry to Bridge Over Troubled Water and remember them. We will croon Let It Be and remember them. We will dance to I Will Survive and remember them. We will not waste energy remembering the name or face of the evil person who tried to hurt our community, but instead commemorate those 49 people who have made us stronger. To them, we will be forever indebted.

We refuse to live in fear. To live in fear is to not live at all. Do not erase us and do not underestimate us. Take a look at our community, and all you will see is a united front of solidarity. We will carry on, with the memory of those we lost, with love for their friends and families and pride in our hearts for who we are.

This is without a doubt the most important post I have and probably ever will write, so thank you so much for reading it. Please share it and help spread the message that love is love and will never be extinguished.


  1. As a member of the LGBT+ community who is deeply struggling to come to terms with this attack, this uplifting message was exactly what I needed to hear, I am so terrified and outraged at the happenings on Sunday but also so thankful for the supportive and outwardly loud community that I am a part of - we exist and will not be ignored

  2. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, this shooting really hit me hard. I was terrified, distraught and so angry that this happened at one of the places we are 'supposed' to feel safe and celebrate who we are. The support within the LGBTQ+ community has been incredible and I love seeing people celebrate their relationships. Our love is valid and always will be. I hope one day we will live in a world where we can be free. Love always wins.

    Em / www.positivelystupendous.co.uk

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  8. Hey, Ollie! Thank you for sharing this, and it is the need of an hour that our LBTQ community gets some recognition. I mean it's people’s lives and their choices who are we to judge. I mean I remember this one time, my friend tried coming out in his college, and faced one of the harshest reactions and ended up in homeschooling. But I support him academically as I am a part of the best essay writing service, to assist him in his essays. And emotionally as well, as both were on the stake!

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