In the early hours of June 12, 2016, a gunman, who I’m not interesting in naming, walked into the gay night club called Pulse in Orlando, Florida and started shooting at a group of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered people – who were doing nothing but being who they were and enjoying themselves.
This was a direct attack on gay people, freedom, humans, love and a different way of life. As a gay man in love with another man you are always aware that there are people who would hurt, damage or kill people like me – just because of who they love. Attitudes to gay people have fundamentally changed in the UK since I was born in the late 1970s. Hostility was very present in the 80s when gay bars started to spring up in cities, albeit usually in discrete and concealed places – until the 90s and 2000s when the gay movement stopped hiding and people like me felt comfortable being open about our sexuality at work and so rather than being some distant object of derision – we become up close and personal with our straight colleagues – who realised – we were just like them.
But we are still not in a world, or country where being gay is still acceptable across the board. When a bakery can refuse service to customers who wanted a gay themed cake because it is ‘against their belief’ – backed up by Christian groups and media elements. It demonstrates to gay people that although we have journeyed far – the route back to the dark ages of the 1950s when we were illegal, arrested and in-prisoned – isn’t as far away as we might like to believe.
On my Monday Matters radio show I spoke to gay radio presenter DJ Justice, who presents his show in Orlando and often visited Pulse and lost people that he knew in the atrocity.