Orlando: Love doesn’t always win

In light of the events in Orlando, Karen Pollock considers the ideas of blame, responsibility and how we should respond.


My Facebook feed announces vigil after vigil.

My Twitter timeline is full of people checking in with each other.

My friends and family seem shell-shocked by the ‘It could have been me’ thoughts.

Almost 50 queer people lie dead, their life taken from them by a gunman as they celebrated their queer and latinx identities.

How do we process these facts? The night at Pulse was intended to be a celebration, part of Orlando Pride week, at a club which had become a community hub. Now it’s the sight of a massacre, where the phones of the dead ring out in a heartbreaking requiem.

I imagine many LGBTQ+ people can remember the first time they stepped into a queer space. The fear, the anxiety, the what if I am seen, what if I am rejected?  What if? – those two words which can freeze us between knowing and becoming.

I was 18, screwing up my courage, and shaking in my Doc Martens, heading to a room in the basement of my students’ union. I didn’t know what to expect, and feared that they might take one look at me and show me the door. I made things even harder on myself since I was going with a specific agenda. I wanted the Gay and Lesbian Society to become the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Society. To my knowledge, it was the first university gay soc in the UK to expand to include the B. A space becoming a little more welcoming, a little more open.

How do we process these facts? The night at Pulse was intended to be a celebration, part of Orlando Pride week, at a club which had become a community hub. Now it’s the sight of a massacre, where the phones of the dead ring out in a heart breaking requiem

It may have been a tiny step in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, but I am still proud of that of moment, of that teenage girl who said; ‘Can this be my place too?’

That’s what our bars and clubs partially represent, that’s what Pride represents, when you strip away the commercialisation and the beer sponsorship. People coming together and saying, ‘can this be my place too?’. We have our problems, those we exclude due to race, class, income, gender, sexuality, or lack of it, but without the fundamental building block of spaces, community cannot exist.

I imagine many LGBTQ+ people can remember the first time they stepped into a queer space. The fear, the anxiety, the what if I am seen, what if I am rejected?  What if? – those two words which can freeze us between knowing and becoming.

Omar Mateen said, ‘This is not your place, I do not want to see you celebrating and building community’. As a therapist. I know that no one event ever triggers an emotional response. Much has been made of his apparent anger at seeing two men kissing, but tracing from a distance the complex web of someone’s mental state is a near impossibility. It is a very human trait to try to draw straight lines, to say that X caused Y, so that we can feel safer, contain our fears within the boundaries of rationality. It is difficult for us to accept the irrationality of violence, of hate, of prejudice.

It may have been a tiny step in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, but I am still proud of that of moment, of that teenage girl who said; ‘Can this be my place too?’

However, I also know the importance of environment. Another memory, a professional one, has been on my mind over the past twenty-four hours. I attended a training event once where a psychotherapist was talking about the damaging impact of ‘hate speech’. He didn’t mean what we conventionally call hate speech, instead he was talking about words like stupid, lazy, ugly. He discussed the ‘violence of words’, and the scars they leave.

We cannot know the mind of the Orlando gunman, why he chose to target LGBTQ+ people, what particular strain of hate infected his beliefs, thoughts, feelings. We do know, however, that hate speech is rife across America at the moment. Anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment has been normalised, anti-trans prejudice encouraged. People post pictures of the guns they intend to take into bathrooms. Correlation is not causation, but my blood runs cold at reading the words of the Orlando-based bigot who posed so proudly with her assault rifle. Hate does not blossom in infertile soil.

As we die in bathrooms, texting our last words as the gunman approaches.

That violent words are a form of violence needs to be accepted. That a culture of violence, in word and deed, exists for LGBTQ+ people needs to become unacceptable. Jonathan Boniface wrote with passion about the need for more than prayer. I say this to all who claim to be allies of the LGBTQ+ community: if all you do is tweet #lovewins or #prayforOrlando then you are complicit in the violence. This is a moment for all to stand up, to challenge, to fight alongside us against the violent laws, statements, sermons which created an atmosphere where Sunday was, sadly, inevitable.

Follow Karen on twitter (@CounsellingKaz)

2 thoughts on “Orlando: Love doesn’t always win

  1. Reblogged this on Fairy JerBear's Queer/Trans Musings From The City Different – Santa Fe, NM and commented:
    I have been overwhelmed since the tragic events of early Sunday morning at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando took place. I have tweeted more stories than I can count but I haven’t been able to get in touch with my own feelings. In good time I will have something to say but in the meantime I’m sharing the thoughts of other bloggers. First up is Karen writing for The Queerness…

    Liked by 1 person

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