U.S. Election Series V: The Importance of Recognizing Orlando as a Hate Crime

In the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, Western society is once again reeling with the consequences. In this process, it is vital that we acknowledge the impact this shooting had on the LGBT+ community, which was directly targeted by the shooter.

A comment by Jasmin Gabel

 

In a Sky news segment on the Orlando shooting, journalist Owen Jones ended up storming off set after a discussion that seems exemplary to how media and politics have reacted to the latest terror attack on Western soil. In the segment, Jones points out that the shooting was “an intentional attack on LGBT people”. But he is repeatedly shut down by his co-hosts. They keep on telling him that it was, instead, an attack “on the freedom of all people trying to enjoy themselves, as Bataclan was” and that he [as a gay man] doesn’t “have ownership of this crime”.

Call it For What it is

Now, lets get this straight. The attacks on Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino and Orlando have obvious commonalities. They were all carried out by radical Islamists and subsequently categorized as terror attacks.

But the significant difference here is that the shooting in Orlando was also an attack motivated by homophobia. Omar Mateen selected Pulse not in spite of it being a gay club but because of it being a gay club. He went there to kill people and he went there to kill people based on whom they love and how they identify. That was his motif.

An intentional attack on a gay bar is an attack on any and all members of the LGBT+ community. As someone on facebook summarized: “Queers are not safe at home, at work, at school, on the street, in bars, in churches, in temples, in synagogues, in movies, on TV, in books, or even in bathrooms. People like me no longer have any safe spaces”

It’s Not All Glitter And Unicorns

The difference between a gay club and a straight club isn’t just that one of them plays more Lady Gaga songs.  For the LGBT+ community, bars have always been a refuge. They represent a place of “solidarity and empowerment”, as President Obama rightly remarked. That is why an attack on a gay club has a profound impact on the LGBT+ community.

The lack of acknowledgement we have seen in parts of the media and by politicians seems symptomatic of a larger phenomenon of people believing that due to the progress of recent years, there is no longer a difference between being straight or not in a country like Germany, England or the USA.

But Inequality and discrimination are still inherent to the lives of all LGBT+ people. They get kicked out of their homes, beaten up on the streets and denied their alienable rights. Even in an open country like Germany.  Even in a liberal gay mecca like Berlin. We have made progress but we are not there yet.

Still a Step Behind

It has been beautiful and moving to see landmarks light up in rainbow colors and watch people come together, allies and members alike proudly holding up rainbow flags. It was, however, that much more disappointing to see the delayed responses of the German federal and local governments.  Only four days after the attacks did Chancellor Merkel manage to acknowledge the attack as a hate crime and only six days after the attack were Berlin landmarks lit up in solidarity with the LGBT community.

It seems oddly fitting though, Germany being a step behind in supporting the LGBT+ community. After all, we are still falling behind many of our Western neighbors in terms of marriage equality as well. So maybe, with Brandenburg gate all lit up in rainbow colors, some across the street in the Reichstag will have a ‘lightbulb moment’ as well.


The Polis Blog serves as a platform at the disposal of Polis180’s members. Published comments express solely the authors’ opinions and shall not be confounded with the opinions of the editors or of Polis180. Image: http://bit.ly/28NNHCh.

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Jasmin Gabel

Jasmin Gabel (25) has a degree in American Studies from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and is now studying Intercultural Communication at Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder) and Adam-Mickiewicz-University Posznan. She is involved with the Polis-Program Peace & Security.
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