Last Sunday I woke up at 8am to a BBC news alert on my phone informing me that 20 people had been shot dead in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. A couple of hours later and it was confirmed that a total of 49 members of the gay community were shot dead by a lone gunman, leaving another 53 injured.
The more I read throughout the day as the story unfolded, the more upset I became. It got to a point where I couldn’t read anything without choking up, tears streaming down my face with the horrific realisation kicking in that this could have been any one of us within the community. Gay bars and clubs are supposed to be our safe haven, places where we can retreat and be completely ourselves without fear of persecution. Now this one man’s actions had taken that away and made our safest places our most vulnerable.
On Monday evening in the heart of Soho, London thousands of Londoners gathered to show signs of respect for the slaughtered and band together as a community to show Orlando that we are with them - that they are not alone. Thousands across the globe were uniting together in their own cities to show their allegiance also.
London Pride is just over a week away, taking place on Saturday 25th June and of course there are fears of a similar attack happening. What should be a day to celebrate Pride now has an overcast of fear and worry for those attending the event, especially those in the march. I myself will be marching with the National AIDS Trust (NAT); we have been informed that numbers are now limited and that we must be wrist banded for security reasons. The best part of that message was the end where there was still a strong wait list of those wanting to march alongside us. To me that showed that fear cannot and will not weaken us as a community.
It reminded of the speech from the film Independence Day where Bill Pullman’s character as President states “We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive...” and rightly so! London Pride’s theme this year is #NoFilter asking everyone to live your life as you. As LGBT people we feel the need to filter our behaviour to hide who we are, and it is encouraging us to be ourselves, nothing more or less.
I don’t think London Pride could have come at a more needed time than now. I, along with thousands of others will march on, united as one and remember our brothers and sisters who we lost. We won’t ever forget what is now the biggest mass shooting in the history of U.S, but the one good thing that can come out of such a heart-breaking, tragic incident is the reminder of just how united we are as a community. Maybe people will stop questioning now why we have a gay pride and understand the blessing to not need to have a ‘straight pride’.