Several days ago, we were shocked by the targeted shooting at Pulse in Orlando against the LGBTQ+ community. Not one year has passed since the US Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage across all 50 states, we are faced with the worst mass shooting in the United States targeting the same people that the Supreme Court had hoped to give an equal footing to. The hashtag “#PrayForOrlando” took social media by storm, with Facebook creating a profile picture edit “we are Orlando”.
But what does this actually achieve? Thousands of people are quick to change their profile pictures, to use the hashtags, to send their thoughts and prayers to the families and loved ones of the victims. But what does that actually achieve?
Donald Trump and (more hesitant) Hillary Clinton used the word “radical Islam” to explain this hate crime, this “act of terror”. What it really is, is homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, in its most violent form. It has nothing to do with religion. The shooter’s pledge to “ISIS” before opening fire was dismissed, as it was not a planned or coordinated attack. This was an act of hate directed at the LGBTQ+ community.
So why bother with all these hashtags and thoughts and prayers if people aren’t actually going to do anything about combatting homophobia? What’s the point of plastering your feeds with rainbow flags and hashtags if you remain silent in the face of low-key homophobia? Where is your “#PrayForOrlando” when transgender people can’t use bathrooms with the genders they identify with, when some of your friends can’t come out to their family, when countless children commit suicide because of homophobic bullying, when laws and legislations remain unchanged and the people ruling our countries remain actively homophobic?
Why not transform these “thoughts and prayers” and pointless hashtags into action? Unless, of course, the act of doing these things validate you and the people around you, that by doing this, you’ve somehow “done your part” and deserve a sticker for not being homophobic. Should we not, instead, talk about the kind of small validations in our every day lives that feed into a culture of hate? How about not turning a blind eye to the smaller, less harmful, acts of hate? Any form of homophobia is homophobia, whether it is offhanded comment that feeds into a much larger system of hate, or a shooting that takes the lives of 49 people.
Furthermore, it must be disturbing (and getting old) how we always seem to point our finger at “radical Islam” for any form of “terror attack” committed by any person of colour. It is virtually impossible to dismantle a culture of hate and a system of oppression without dismantling all systems of oppression. We were quick to #prayforParis, but what about Muslim people who will suffer the backlash of Islamophobia from these attacks? We are now quick to say #WeAreOrlando, but did we stop to acknowledge that Orlando has many homophobic laws? For example, it is legal for people to be fired on the basis of their sexual orientation, gay couples could not adopt children until last year, and Orlando affirms the “right” for doctors to not treat people of the LGBTQ+ community at all. We are so quick to rush towards “standing in solidarity” without actually assessing the situation and aiding in dismantling a system that fuels hate against any minority. Save the hashtags. Do something about it instead.