The furore over the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in the US has become even more intense after the gunman’s father said his son was motivated not by his religion but by homophobia. His statement, however, may have made to obfuscate the Islamist motive behind the terror attack, since the shooter, Omar Mateen had pledged allegiance to ISIS before pulling the trigger. Either way, the massacre is an extreme manifestation of hatred and homophobia.
Central to the issue, of course, is the gay community and the homphobia they continue to face. Just the sight of two men kissing had incensed Mateen, said his father. While this attack is an extreme, it must push society to introspect on how the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community continues to face hatred in smaller, but still significant, ways on a daily basis.
From being told that they are sick and need to be ‘cured’, to outright discrimination — the LGBTQ community still struggles to find acceptance and a safe space. This is not just in public but even within their homes. Recently, Mumbai’s gay community held a conference to create awareness about how families pressured them to seek treatment to change their sexuality.
Then, there are numerous instances of harassment in different ways, from being forced into marriage, to having to live permanently in the closet and in fear. The community lives with a sense of dread and, very often, guilt that they have somehow let down or brought shame upon the family.
It is time to make spaces safer for the LGBT community in daily life. More mainstream theatres should be open to screening gay films. We need to see social venues becoming more accessible to gays, too. Today, we see gay parties at some LGBT-friendly haunts, but several other venues prefer to keep their doors closed. We must bring them into the community, not in a patronising way, but simply weave them into all aspects of society.
The terror attack was extreme but the everyday vilification is also a hate crime in its own way. Let that become a thing of the past.