At the vigil tonight I made a speech. People who weren’t there have asked me what I said. Well…….
I said three things:
(1) What we (lgbt people) do and what is done to us is always used by other political agendas.
The gun lobby is out in force today.
Those who think that immigration is apparently the reason for every problem (and we are in the midst of that kind of rhetoric here, just as they are in the States) are shouting up, yet the families of Sandy Hook, Columbine and Charleston lost their children and family members to US citizens, kids and adults killed at the hands of young white Americans who were desperately damaged.
And then people blame the religion of the perpetrator. They are making a grave error. We suffered the effects of 30 or more years of religious conflict in Northern Ireland, but we don’t dismiss the whole of Christianity. We knew that it was extremists that were bombing and shooting. When Hindus and Sikhs kill and maim each other we don’t reject Hinduism and Sikhism, we again identify it as the work of extremists. When the Israeli army or government attacks Palestinian civilians we don’t dismiss Judaism. Because we know only too well where that goes. And when Hamas attack Israeli civilians we don’t dismiss Islam…..
So when a Muslim man kills us we also shouldn’t dismiss the whole of Islam. I know. I am married to a Muslim. And he weeps for what these people are doing in the name of his faith. He says the Right, with their caricatures and their unthinking blaming of stereotypes, and the extremists of Isis BOTH misrepresent him.
(2) When a man does this to us, we must reach out. Not turn in or against. Our future is with others who have suffered violence and with their families. After Orlando my thoughts turned to the people of Charleston who lost family members in an attack by a white supremacist on a black church. And they embraced even the killer through, in their case, a faith that I do not have. They held each other, they found dignity in grief. LGBT people are finding that same dignity.
(3) And thirdly, I have stood here before when AIDS hit us and we embraced each other and our friends, allies and families and, as no one else cared that we were dying, we turned a crisis into a remarkable and positive response. We galvanised research and buddies and donors and we gave the world our contribution to the fight against AIDS and for a cure.
The drag queens of the Stonewall Riots in 1969 turned a police raid into a moment of liberation. They took off their stilettos and took to the streets and gave us the courage to join them.
So in the face of this grief and terror in Orlando, this abhorrent and aberrant crime, we must turn grief and terror into action for a better world. These events remind us that our hard won equality needs to be defended every day. Not just for us and other lgbt people who come after us, but for the health and good of the worlds we live in.
In times like this we must find common cause with others who have been attacked, their friends, families and allies. And join with our friends, families and allies. This is a time to turn outwards to the world and show how we can lead, as we have done before. So the LGBT struggle continues to be not a struggle for us but for a better world for everyone.
I hope that gives us all comfort.