“An act of terror and an act of hate”

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On Sunday 12th June the worst US mass shooting in the last 25 years took place in Orlando, Florida. It was a pure hate crime, no two ways about it. 49 victims died, another 53 injured and the LGBT+ community are left in mourning and in terror.

In the early hours of Sunday morning Omar Mateen, who was not on a terrorism watch list and who legally purchased guns several days before, open fired inside the gay nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando. He held hostages in the bathroom and killed 49 individuals, one of which text his Mum telling her he was going to die only moments before. He made a pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State. Barack Obama has described the incident as “an act of terror and an act of hate”, and he is right.

Across the world, countries, cities, celebrities and civilians have shown their support for Orlando. Pride flags have been cast at half-mast, Facebook is painted in the colours of the rainbow, statements have been made to show support for the LGBT+ community not only in Orlando but around the world. Because this was a hate crime. 

This wasn’t the first time the LGBT+ community have been on the receiving end of violence, and I have no doubt that it will not be the last. America, and the rest of the world, are continuing to make huge strides towards equality for the LGBT+ community, however there are still violent reactions. The shooting took place in a gay nightclub, somewhere LGBT+ individuals should feel comfortable and safe, and should have fun and make memories with their friends and loved ones. This is definitely going to be a memory that will long live in the hearts of the LGBT+ community, unfortunately.

It’s also not the first or last time that it has been displayed exactly why American gun laws need to change. Just last year the US suffered from 372 mass shootings (a mass shooting is classed as a single incident in which 4 or more individuals are killed or injured). 475 people were killed, 1870 wounded. In one year.

The shooter pledged allegiance to ISIS. ISIS are known for their hate against the LGBT community, with reports of individuals being thrown from cliffs or stoned if they are suspected to be LGBT. An individual who fled from ISIS once explained in an essay written for BBC news that IS are “professional when it comes to tracking down gay people.”

What is important to remember here is this; It was not a Muslim who attacked Pulse. This attack, and every other attack linked to ISIS, is planned and carried out in order to create war – to turn the world on the muslim community. Do not let them win you over, do not let them win your hatred towards Muslims. It was a violent, hateful individual who pledged allegiance to IS. IS are not Muslims, no matter how often they claim that they are. They do not follow the peaceful teachings of the Qur’an, they do not want love, or reconciliation, or acceptance – they want war, and by claiming that one minority is attacking another minority in a country as diverse as the US is one way to create a war.
However it was not a Muslim who did this, it was a murderer.

Gun laws are not okay. There is no need for guns in modern society. They are a weapon, and this is exactly how they were used in Orlando this weekend – a weapon to create war and death and pain. Why is this still allowed? Why are people allowed to walk into a shop empty handed and walk out with something that can kill 49 people in one night just because the individual holding it is angry that some men love men and some women love women? How is this the norm? It amazes me that America continues to live in the past when it comes to guns, the weapon that managed to kill 475 individuals in one year through mass shootings. It’s unbelievable that it’s still even an issue to be debated. Peoples lives are being debated. This is not okay.

Homophobia is not okay. People claim that LGBT+ individuals have equality, but we don’t, and this proves it. Being LGBT+, even in 2016, is not easy, and it’s not simple, and it’s scary. I want to have children one day, and as an openly bisexual female I shouldn’t hope that my children are straight, but in the world we live in now I know that, unfortunately, them being straight would make life easier for them. I will accept my children for who they are, but who’s to say that the rest of the world will do the same? I wish for a world where my children do not have to face the comments that I and many others have, that they can openly be themselves without the threat of isolation and bullying, that individuals can hold hands with who they want when they walk down the street, that people can go to a nightclub and dance and sing and drink without being murdered. That’s the world I want to live in, but without education, and strength, and love, and solidarity, and bravery against the hatred that some people carry in their soul then this world I and many others dream of will not happen.

I plan to continue to challenge the hateful thoughts many think are okay. You may not think that laughing at the odd gay joke is hurtful because you’re straight, but you’re wrong. People hear the joke, people hear you laugh, and people think it’s okay. It’s not.It starts rumours, and myths, and ideas. Ideas turn into prejudice, which turns to hatred, which turns to violence and war. This is not okay.

LGBT+ individuals are people too, and it’s about time we got viewed as people and not as targets for murder.

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