7 Frustrating Myths About The Gay Club Massacre In Orlando

In truth, so many US politicians are hypocrites, homophobia is not a Muslim invention and 50 people were killed because they were LGBT...

orlando shooting

by Sophie Wilkinson |
Published on

This weekend, a man armed with assault rifles, most suited to a war zone, went into a gay club in Orlando, two hours from his home and shot at people inside. Omar Mateen killed 50 people, and injured a further 53, most of them Latino/Latina or Black. It was only after a three-hour hostage situation - it is not yet known what his demands were - that police distracted him with an explosion and then rushed the club - called Pulse, to commemorate the lost heartbeat of a gay man who died of AIDS - and killed him. This was not only the deadliest mass shooting in American history, but the biggest massacre of LGBT people in the west since the Holocaust.

In the time since, there have been a lot of presumptions made about the incident, and we've tried to undo these misconceptions.

**1. Prayers aren't important

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After news broke of the attack, #PrayforOrlando was trending on Twitter and it makes sense; when people feel hopeless in the wake of a tragedy, they look to a higher power to do something to stop it ever happening again. What is unfortunate however, is hypocritical political representatives sending prayers. Political representatives can actually do something to stop homophobia and gun crime in the US, but so many of them don’t. Just as there are many lawmakers who seek to clamp down on LGBT rights - note the Texan Governor who tweeted that ‘man reaps what he sows’ shortly after news of the attack broke - many accept donations from the National Rifle Association. In case you didn’t know, the right-wing politicians coincidentally voted against the introduction of a law that would stop people on the FBI watchlist having legal access to firearms. This law would have stopped Mateen from getting guns. A guy called Igor has listed all of the hypocrite politicians who see no contradiction in sending prayers to Orlando while having the NRA’s money burning through their pocket and a voting record to prove it.

2. It was an ISIS attack on all of us in the west

Yes, Mateen called 911 after the shooting and pledged allegiance to ISIS. Yes, ISIS’s representatives have taken responsibility for Mateen’s actions, saying he is one of their ‘soldiers’. But homophobia isn’t the preserve of Islamist fanatics. Not only was Mateen was an American citizen who got his guns as per his right as an American, but on the very same day, across the US in Los Angeles, a white non-Muslim man called James Wesley Howell was arrested with possession of three assault weapons and chemicals used to make bombs. Howell, from Indiana, was on his way to LA Pride to ‘cause harm’, according to police. Owen Jones, a Guardian writer, ’stormed’ off of Sky News the day of the attack after the presenter tried to explain that Mateen’s attacks were on ‘people enjoying themselves regardless of their sexuality’. It may seem noble to imply that Mateen could have attacked anyone, that we’re all in this together, in spite of the fact Mateen’s own father said that he notice his son was ‘repulsed’ by seeing two gay men kiss a few months ago. However, just as shouting ‘all lives matter!’ in the face of those chanting ‘black lives matter’ is harmful, by trying to wash over an attack on a specific minority, the presenter was denying the very real homophobia LGBT people experience across the world at the hands of people claiming to speak for all sorts of religions or ideologies. Homophobia is as much an American invention as a Muslim one. Pretending that Mateen’s actions were only because he was an Islamic fanatic places the blame elsewhere, when actually, his crime was a very American one.

3. This stuff could only ever happen in America

The crime was very American because mass shootings are sadly part of American life. There have been seven of them in the past week in the US, while there have been 8 in Canada since…1996. Canada has more guns per capita than the US, but gun control laws are stricter. It was only last week that President Obama complained that he wasn’t able to legislate against people on the terror watchlist being denied their second amendment right to arms. However, Mateen’s motivation to kill, undeniably homophobia, perhaps weaved in with the same fundamentalist Islamism that condones gay men being thrown from buildings by ISIS, is sadly held across the world. Not just Muslim countries, by the way. Of the 53 ex-Commonwealth countries, 39 have anti-LGBT laws. And hate can be resourceful outside of guns. As part of his killing spree, white supremacist David Copeland bombed The Admiral Duncan in London’s Soho in 1999 (as well as Brixton and Brick Lane, areas of ethnic diversity) using a nail bomb. And one in six LGBT people in the UK has experienced a hate crime as a result of their sexuality or sexual identity.

4. Guns don’t kill people, people do

Mateen used assault rifles, weapons specifically designed to kill people. There is a reason America is the location of so many mass shootings, and you have to wonder, how does a guy who's been investigated by the FBI get legal access to guns used for warfare? However, it's also worth looking at Mateen's history of violence. His ex-wife Sitora Yusify has said: 'He started abusing me physically, very often, and not allowing me to speak to my family, and keeping me hostage from them.' Maybe, if she'd been comfortable in coming forward to report him, and police had acted then, none of this further violence would have happened.

5. Love is love

#LoveisLove was trending after the attack, people sharing on the hashtag used for June’s Pride month to show their solidarity for queer people. However, a useful thing to remember is that not all LGBT people are in love. Some LGBT people are horrible arses who are difficult to love. Some are old and alone, some are young and closeted and scared to come out to even their biggest crush. And some just don’t fall in love because they’re really horny and want to play the field. Just like straight people. The sentiment of #LoveisLove is uplifting and euphoric but gay people shouldn’t have to be in love to be worth collective sympathy in the wake of atrocious violence.

6. We’re hopeless to stop these sorts of attacks

Not at all. Thousands of people who fought for equal rights didn't give up and neither should LGBT people and their allies. As multiple vigils across the world will show, there is support for LGBT people, there is support for innocent Muslims who sadly now face revenge attacks. There is also hope that, armed with the right knowledge and understanding societies can - at the very least - become more tolerant to people who are different to ourselves.

7. Donald Trump was right, this was terrorism

Yes, this was terrorism, if you’re looking up the textbook definition of terrorism as 'the unofficial or unauthorised use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims'. However, Mateen was American, who only got his guns because he was American. And his victims were and are LGBT and are only dead and injured because they were and are LGBT. This is not the far-distant terrorism that comes from foreigners elsewhere. This is a home-grown homophobic terrorism that has actually been endorsed by conservatives and homophobes across the world regardless of their religion and colour. Now’s the time, not only for America to once again look at its ridiculously lax gun laws, but for the world to take a long hard look at what happens when homophobia is allowed to exist.

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Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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