Lying in bed late last night I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed. Saddened and disgusted at the reports and posts of the Orlando shootings. People had begun to post statuses declaring solidarity with our ‘brothers and sisters in Orlando’, and profile pictures and cover pages had been changed. I changed mine to this:
Then I started to notice something. I scrolled back … and back, and back. What I thought I had noticed was, in fact, true. All the statuses, all the pic changes, all the shared news articles were done by my gay, lesbian and trans friends. All bar one. One straight person I knew had written a heartfelt Facebook status offering love and solidarity with the victims of the Orlando shooting.
My immediate response was to write this status:
50 People shot dead by a crazy Islamic fundaMENTALIST -the worst mass shooting in U.S. History, but unlike Paris, Brussels, the Australian siege and Charlie Hebdo there’s not so many people talking about it on Facebook. With the exception of one, only my gay and lesbian friends are posting about it. LGBT lives not as important?
I’m not stupid, I know that changing your FB profile pic or cover photo will not bring back one of those poor innocent victims, and it’s highly unlikely that it’ll stop the next hate filled cunt from shooting innocent people in the name of a distorted bigoted belief system; and writing how much you ‘feel for the victims and their families’ will be unlikely to reach the said families let alone ease their pain in the aftermath of such an atrocity. This is not the debate I’m trying to get into, it’s been had several times after the internet declared ‘JeSuisCharlie’ in January 2015, when FB introduced the French flag filter for profile pics after the Paris Bataclan Massacre last November, and the Belgium flag filter after the Brussels shootings earlier this year; and whilst my personal belief is that such things do matter, that showing solidarity (in whatever way we can) does matter, that is not my point.
My timeline was filled with such declarations after these events (the Paris shootings especially), at the time I was curious about that debate and so looked at my friends list to see how many French flag filters had been used. It was roughly around 70%, around 300 of my 450 or so friends had shown their solidarity with the French people.
My profile pic was this after the Paris attacks
Where are those people now? Where is the solidarity now?
Sure, some people had talked about the States needing to amend their gun laws. Unarguably correct, if arguably cold and distanced from showing support for the LGBT victims.
I headed to Twitter to see what was happening it took seconds to see find this in my feed:
It seems I was not the only gay person to be noticing the muted reactions of their friends on Facebook. A friend commented on my status:
The Daily Mail’s front page he mentioned was this:
They were busy peddling their own bit of xenophobia to enhance their own Brexit agenda to waste a front page on the deadliest shooting in recent US history!
Incensed by the unwillingness of the Sky News broadcaster to recognise the homophobic nature of the attack, the openly gay, left wing, writer and commentator, Owen Jones, got up and walked off the set last night.
Angered after trying to make the point that no such reluctance would have been shown in labelling the shooting as ‘antisemitic’ had such an incident taken place in a synagogue. Whilst thankfully this is a hypothetical, I agree with him and strongly believe it would be so. I hope with all my heart that we may never know.
I do know that my timeline was shamefully empty though, despite the incident being in the news since we’d woken up Sunday morning.
My Facebook status was questioned by people, this is fine, I’m happy to debate things, I believe we should question everything. Someone wrote ‘Zuckerburg’s algorithm perhaps?’; True, not everyone of my 458 Facebook friends’ posts get shown in my timeline, I’m aware of this. So my statistics would not hold up in court, however, the people with whom I interact with most frequently show up, it is their stuff I see daily, their holiday snaps, their baby pics, their daily inspirational quotes, and comedy memes, even their xenophobic immigration EU statuses. I see it all! So I am confident in declaring yesterday I saw the silence of the overwhelming majority of my straight Facebook friends, and so did other gay people.
It may come as a surprise to those that questioned me, because they are straight, gay friendly but straight. It may be hard to comprehend, but for us, for my gay, lesbian and trans friends we know only too well that that silence was there. We know because we live with casual homophobia everyday. It’s not just the people that shout ‘queer’ or ‘faggot’ at us as we walk down the street, it’s not just the high number of reported hate crimes and ‘queer bashings’ that we see and hear about via the gay press; it’s in the need for a gay press to report these things because mainstream media isn’t that bothered, it’s in the casual and epidemic throwing around of the ‘that’s so gay’ we hear daily, it’s in the terms ‘gay marriage’ instead of ‘equal marriage’, it’s in the legislature of the self-declared liberal countries who still oppose our right to love and marry, it’s in the horrible bigoted laws and debates about where trans people can and can’t pee in the US, it’s in the media’s eagerness to talk about someone’s sexuality for salacious means but not about this, about this hate-filled, bigoted and HOMOPHOBIC massacre.
So, I make no apologies for making anyone feel uncomfortable because they didn’t share the news story, because they are the same people that don’t stop their children from using ‘gay’ as an insult, and the same people who say ‘gays’ instead of ‘gay people’, who state things like ‘I just think marriage is between a man and woman, no offence’, who say ‘i respect your ‘lifestyle’ choice’ not realising the homophobia wrapped up inside their ‘acceptance’.
No. I will continue, more stridently than ever, to start calling people out on their casual homophobia, because I truly believe they are oblivious to it. However, we are not. We know it, we see it, we feel it, and it hurts. So why let it continue? Be strong, be united and fight back!
Nous sommes unis!