Most of straight America is devastated by the horrific attack on the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It is the latest in a long line of senseless acts of gun violence in America, and it marks the worst mass shooting in American history. However, there is something different here: it was a targeted attack on the LGBTQ community, which is a community that is actively and routinely targeted with hate. Also, in the wake of all of this something disturbing is happening: many straight people are trying to erase us from our own tragedy. Well, one journalist is sick of it, and when it happened to him, he actually walked out of an interview.
Owen Jones is a journalist for The Guardian. He was in an interview with Sky News (the British equivalent to Fox News, owned by Rupert Murdoch) with host Mark Longhurst. It was a panel discussion, and at one point, Jones exploded:
You don’t understand this, because you’re not gay! It is one of the worst atrocities committed against LGBT people in the Western world for generations.
This was in response to Longhurst’s continued efforts to keep from acknowledging that this was an anti-LGBTQ hate crime. Longhurst, undeterred, pressed on:
It’s something that’s carried out against human beings.
Jones pressed on, “This has to be called out for what it is,” he said. “It was an intentional attack on LGBT people—“
But Longhurst continued to ignore the truth and interrupted Jones again, saying, “—on the freedom of all people to try and enjoy themselves.”
Watch the exchange below:
After that, Jones apparently reached his wit’s end, and left the set in a huff. Later, he expressed in his Guardian column what many of us in the LGBTQ community have been feeling: that Straight America, and straight people around the world, are trying to speak for us in our darkest hour. Here is some of what Jones wrote, via The Advocate:
This isn’t about LGBT people taking ownership of the pain and anguish,” he wrote. “People of all sexual orientations have wept over this massacre, and all communities should unite in grief. It is highly likely that straight people died in the atrocity.”
He added, “Omar Mateen could have chosen many clubs, full of people laughing and living, but he chose a LGBT venue. This was homophobia as well as terrorism. It is not enough to simply condemn violence: we have to understand what it is and why it happened.”
Today in Washington, FBI director James Comey gave a status report on the investigation. “So far we see no indication that this was a plot directed from outside the United States,” he said, “and we see no indication that he was part of any kind of network.”
For his part, President Obama promised Sunday to follow this investigation wherever the facts take us.
The question from Jones, though, is whether some in the media would be following the story if they couldn’t call it terrorism.
“Today, the ‘we only care about LGBT rights if Muslims are involved’ brigade are out in force,” he wrote.
Owen Jones is a million percent correct here. Politicians are using the gay community to score political points in a hot election season, straight media personalities are working to attach their own narratives to the tragedy, and many of them are simply flat out not listening to us at all. They want to talk about their own agendas, be it gun control, ISIS, the FBI, the shooter’s past, radical Islam – everything but our pain as a community that is, once again, ravaged by violence just for being who we are.
Let me be perfectly clear: we love our straight allies. We are such a small segment of the population that we would be nowhere without them. However, there is simply no way that someone who is straight and cisgender can possibly fully understand what it is like to live under the constant threat of violence just for existing. That is our reality. Straight people will also never know what it is like to be erased from the conversation surrounding the aftermath of your own tragedy. So, hear this, Straight America: for once, this is a time where you need to listen. Don’t drown out queer voices. Don’t erase LGBTQ people from this conversation. This is most certainly about us, and a truth that only we can truly know.
Featured image via video screen capture