Orlando: a catalyst for change

Published 17, Jun, 2016
Author // Michael Yoder

Michael Yoder says “small things - Pride flags being lowered, vigils held, mayors and politicians and celebrities speaking out across the planet, rainbow colours decorating monuments are of immense importance.”

Orlando: a catalyst for change

"Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have." Margaret Mead 

The mass shooting in Orlando has brought out the best and worst in people. Some continue to hate the LGBT community and some have turned to love: line-ups of people donating blood, people contributing money to assist the loved ones of those who were lost and to support those who survived.

Those who hate never cared in the first place and their minds will not be changed. 

We cannot legislate acceptance. 

For me, the shooting brought back memories - losing many beloved friends in the 80s to HIV. Back then it was a trickle: whisperings about who was sick or who had passed away. Orlando is a tsunami by comparison, but the pain is as palpable as those old days when we attended funeral after funeral over the years. Bright, beautiful gay men lost to an illness we didn't really understand very well. 

Back then the responses were not much different than today - those who choose to love and those who choose to hate. AIDS was seen by many (and perhaps still is) as God's punishment against the sinful. But there were those that embraced us and cared for us in spite of fear. 

The similarities between then and now are that both instances have the opportunity to be catalysts for change. The early days of AIDS saw an awakening of a movement that insisted on treatments and care. Perhaps Orlando will be a catalyst to change gun laws. 

Human beings don't like change - in many cases we resist it. In the United States the gun culture will take a long time to be broken down. With AIDS it was much the same - people didn't really care if a bunch of hookers and homos died, but the persistence of the activists made change inevitable. 

Even in Victoria we saw a shift. The Pride flag was raised and lowered to half mast. My own little somewhat conservative municipality of Esquimalt now has a Pride flag (at half mast). The township responded quickly to be a part of the love that needed to be expressed toward a whole community of people who were affected by tragedy. More and more we see places moving forward to where all people are important in the fabric of community. It's a colourful fabric and more people we include the more vibrant it becomes. 

These small things - Pride flags being lowered, vigils held, mayors and politicians and celebrities speaking out across the planet, rainbow colours decorating monuments are of immense importance. During the 80s, there was little of that support, but perhaps the AIDS movement itself was a catalyst that lead to what has been happening following Orlando. 

I live far away from Orlando, and yet it is my own backyard. When I was young, like so many of those murdered, I danced in a gay nightclub and was "at home". I didn't have to fear holding my lover's hand or kissing him in front of other people, because we all belonged.

The killer in Orlando wants to turn back the clock to those years where LGBT people lived in fear of violence and hatred. Some religious leaders agree - gays are better off dead. It is the strength and resilience of our community that will bring about the change that we need.  

In the face of hate LGBT people have stood up and proudly said "no". We've done it countless times before and we'll do it countless times again...

About the Author

Michael Yoder

Michael Yoder

Michael Yoder currently works with POZitively Connected, a project of Vancouver Island Persons Living with HIV AIDS Society. Positively Connected provides social connection and support to gay/bi men living with HIV. He has previously sat on the board of directors of the Canadian AIDS Society (CAS), and has been involved in the HIV/AIDS movement since 1987. He worked with CAS in development and writing of the One Foot Forward Series of self training modules for people living with HIV and other work. Michael is always available for writing work, workshop development/presentation as well as public speaking.

Michael's social media connections are @michaely1961 on twitter and on Facebook here.