Tuesday, 14 June 2016

why are labels so important?

So, I am running on little sleep here. I am angry and disappointed with the way I see the recent shootings in the Orlando gay club Pulse. I hear arguments on both sides about how it should be labelled – and I do not really disagree with any. Yet I am seemingly being called ‘reactionary’ for being upset that this incident is not being labelled as a hate crime against the LGBT community.

I hear the LGBT community saying that they feel huge grief and that this should be recognised as a hate crime. 

I hear non-LGBT folk telling me that it does not matter how it is labelled and, therefore, does not matter to us. 

It does matter, it matters to me and my LGBT friends. I am telling you, it does matter to us. Isn’t that enough? 

If it does not matter to you, why are you arguing about it?

Rather than short, ‘instant’ posts, I want to get some thoughts down as to why I feel this way. It is not about who is wrong and right, it is about understanding why the LGBT community feels aggrieved.

I want to look at each reason this happened – because this is far more complex than one issue – and put my thoughts down about them. I am trying to be logical, but I have not spent hours and hours investigating and I am emotional.

The first reason this happened: terrorism. Now, the guy called the police to claim allegiance to ISIS. As such, under the definition of terrorism “the unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims” this does make this political. There will be some saying that ISIS knew nothing about it – but:

“It is not altogether surprising that Isis appeared not to know much about Mateen; they did not need to. One does not need to officially sign up to the group to carry out acts on its behalf. In his Ramadan message urging jihad, Abu-Mohammed al-Adnani, the group’s chief spokesman, had specifically instructed: “Do not ask for anyone’s permission”. This allows ‘lone wolves’ to plan and carry out missions and avoids the chances of leaks or infiltration by security agencies.” - http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/isis-claims-responsibility-orlando-gay-nightclub-shooting-florida-attack-omar-mateen-gunman-a7079721.html

So yes, if he claimed that this was for ISIS, it is terrorism.

Gun control. I will always say that any chance to improve gun control should be made the most of. If people can get guns, they will use them.

Many stats can be thrown around, but I found the section on Germany in the following article interesting: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/mar/15/so-america-this-is-how-you-do-gun-control

Trying to make sense of laws and regulations for different countries is not straight forward and I do not want to put in too much time into this. There are shootings in all countries, despite bans. But let’s face it, illegal goods will enter a country – it is not like drugs are legal in the UK or the US, but they get into these countries and are used. But making it harder for folks to buy guns just feels like it makes sense to me. This is an opinion and I have not yet seen a good reason to change it, so I will go with it for now.

But if it is not guns, then it is bombs. London 2005, Madrid 2004, Manchester 1996. Or other things; the killing of soldier Lee Rigby in London in 2013 involved a car, knives and a cleaver. All in the name of terrorism. If people want to kill people, either for a hate crime, terrorist act or any other reason, they can.

That said, bombs need making. Knives are not massively effective (I cringe using that word, but I think it fits) for a mass killing. Guns seem to be able to kill many, quickly. If they are widely and easily available – they will be used. Let’s at least make it hard for murders huh?

So yes, lax gun control did contribute.

Mental health of the murder. Seems that whenever it is a single person, mental health is brought up. In some cases, this is true. It creates a bad stigma: that people who suffer from mental health issues are killers. Yes, some are. But many, if properly helped and looked after would not commit atrocities. We need to make sure we look out for, and after our communities vulnerable. This is a failing of society, though I concede that some folk will always fall through the cracks. But expensive health care, bad treatment, and misunderstanding of ‘responsible’ people – these will make those cracks cavernous. Was the Pulse killer struggling with mental health issues, this I do not know – I am taking reports of this with a pinch of salt.

If so, this is a failing of a health care system – not an individual.

Homophobia. Yes, this word may, in root, be flawed. But the Oxford dictionary defines it as "Dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people.” So let’s use the word as it is defined. This man’s father is said to have quickly dismissed the attack as (paraphrased) “not religiously motivated, but by the rage of seeing two men kiss”. It was committed in a gay club. I’ll be honest, this all looks pretty pointed.

Now, there are reports that the man may or may not have had homosexual tendencies. I treat this cautiously for now. But, that still does not stop this being a hate crime against the LGBT community.

Internalised homophobia and oppression happens to gay, lesbian and bisexual people, and even heterosexuals, who have learned and been taught that heterosexuality is the norm and “correct way to be”. Hearing and seeing negative depictions of LGB people can lead us to internalise, or take in, these negative messages. Some LGB people suffer from mental distress as a resulthttp://www.rainbow-project.org/mh/internalised-homophobia

Yes, LGBT folk can be homophobic and lash out. This often results in self harm and suicide. I’ll put a link here to some numbers. Numbers always vary, but the general trends remain the same. 

So acting out, as a homophobic act by a gay male brainwashed by a terrorist organisation that routinely kill gay men (I do not want to see another image of a gay male being thrown off a building – I see them far too often) in such a hideous way is not out of the question. Especially given that the individual in question may see an act of ‘martyrdom’ as the only way to their respective Heaven. 

Yes, this was a homophonic act.

Now, why does it matter what we call it? Well, ‘terrorism’ does sell papers. It is used to make people afraid. It is used by both the terrorists and the opposing governments to push agendas. Donald Trump, US presidential prospect, immediately took Twitter to blame Obama and say that this is why he wants to ban Muslims from the US. He is not alone. That particular political message of hate is rampant – if it was not he would not have so many supporters worldwide. It is used to push agendas on both sides. In the UK, things like this are used to push s called ‘snooping laws’ though parliament.

It is terrorism, but labelling it solely as such is a political spin, whether it is true or not.

Note: I see terrorism as distinct from religion. I have not heard religion mentioned really but terrorism isn’t a religious act. In the case of ISIS, religion is used as justification. But not all Muslims (like some Christian groups and Phra Kittiwuttho, the Buddhist monks in Thailand) hold the same views. Many deaths by ISIS are actually against other Muslims. Again, I am not going to go fact checking this source, but it is something to think about.

Gun control – yes, as I said above. Lax laws made this act easier, but I suspect it would have happened anyway. Maybe not to the same scale, maybe worse. We will never now. We should fight for better controls, but it is a method, not a cause.

Mental health – It could be a contributing factor, it does seem likely. But I would hate to blame this alone, or even loudly. I believe we should be looking after people who suffer from mental health issues. It attaches far too much stigma to a vulnerable group and really, highlights the failings of our health care systems. I would prefer to stay away from this label, but it may prove to fit.

The big back lash right now is against calling this a hate crime against the LGBT community. I don’t get this. It was clearly an act specifically against the LGBT community. It may have been other things, but it really was this too.

People I know are 100% not homophobic are saying that this should not be called a hate crime. I think that they see this as ‘we are all in this together’. I agree, we are. I look forward to the day when we do not have any homophobia or transphobia. But know, that time is not here yet. For you, as an ally, sure. But unfortunately the world is made up of way more people than my friends.

In the last two weeks:

I had 9 – 10 lads, probably mid 20s with buzz cuts walk past me at a service station in a way that made it hard for me to pass whilst sniggering and saying ‘faggot’ to each other.

I walked with Oxford Pride march, and some folks were heard loudly saying that they thought ‘it was disgusting’ that we were there. 

I had a guys come up to me on the street. I was wearing a summer dress and presenting in a way that can only be described as ‘stereotypically feminine’ (note I say stereotypically and move on), as I choose to do. This man singled me out of a crowd and said “hello young man”. That may not seem like much to you, but it stung me and felt very pointed. It may have been a slip, but I really do not think it was. 

Every day I see people looking at me and have them misgender me. Every day unless I avoid people. And often, I avoid people. I only really hang out with old friends or in LGBT groups. I shouldn’t feel like I have to segregate myself but I do. There are a lot of amazing folk out there that I do not know. I spent the weekend at a pretty massive board game expo recently and no one shied away from talking to me. I met so many great people. But I did have stares too. I did have folk shift a little when talking to me. Not in a mean way, but I could feel that they were uncomfortable.

I would like to reach a point where I do not make other folk uncomfortable just by existing. Where people are unsure how to call me. But we are not there yet. My friends are, the general public is not.

In the US, there are laws made so that I cannot use the bathrooms in some states. Same-sex marriage is being boycotted. In over 70 countries it is illegal to be homosexual, and punishable by death in some.

In Russia, it is not illegal. But talking about being LGBT is. Just holding a rainbow flag will get you arrested:

and taking part in a pride march will get you arrested also. 

This is sanctioned hate against the LGBT community. If you have rules in place, it shows that being LGBT is not acceptable for one reason or another. It makes the LGBT community less than normal, less than acceptable, justifiable recipients of violence.

I read many articles of atrocities against the LGBT community. Deaths, beatings, suicides, protests, hate, laws. I read it every day. Just recently I said on my Facebook page that it wears me down. Most of this does not make the news, but it does happen. If you look – it is there. I look because I have a vested interest in my community. Just like I know more about board games than most folks I know. It matters to me. I don’t expect you to know all this stuff. It’s bloody depressing. But don’t assume that it is not there just because you do not see it or understand why it would be the case. As I say, you are cool and groovy, but you are not everyone.

So when something major happens, yes. It does hit the LGBT community hard. I am always on edge. And feeling a massive, collective grief from my community amplifies the hurt.

And we do want folk to know that this was a hate crime against the LGBT community. It may not make sense to you, but for a moment it highlights all the struggles we go through, not just this one. Like black people still fight to gain official apologies from countries for slavery.  Like we are the LGBT community is fighting to have people killed in the UK for being homosexual to receive pardons. In 1970, the German government apologised for the holocaust. It is not going to change anything in theory, but to that community it does. It has an impact. It shows that these crimes are recognised as wrong. You may assume that these things are wrong, but official apologies STATE that these things are wrong. They make it official and irrefutable.

So yes, hate crimes do need to be highlighted as such.

And for those that still say, well yes, it was hideous and a hate crime, but let’s move on.

No. we still need to point out that it was a hate crime. But in doing so, we actually stand more unified. There is so much hate coming from this. So many cases of folks saying that ‘this is God’s punishment for being gay’. Jokes about ‘how much HIV+ blood’ was spilt. Internet trolls. Well, let’s take it closer to (my) home.

Yesterday a group of LGBT folks got together to show their compassion for the events at Pulse. To grieve for people who died. The result, a Christian group protested them. Yes.

We should treat this atrocity as an atrocity against people. Clearly motivated by homophobia, extreme terrorist ideals and enabled by lax gun laws. People died. Just people. No matter what other labels they had. The Orlando community will no doubt struggle to cope, the families will be devastated. The LGBT community feels this attack personally. Indeed, there is a lot of anger at the way it is being portrait. 

The same day, a man was arrested headed to LA pride with guns and bombs. Again, the LGBT community was being targeted.

things must be called for what they are. this is true in all cases, not just LGBT ones. 

In France a police officer was killed in a terrorist act. He was targeted because he was in the police. It is important that we note that. This man died because of his chosen profession. I have so much respect for the police, who work in often hostile environments. I do not think it to be an easy job and appreciate the work they do. There have been a number of police deaths just because they are police. Again, I think we have to highlight this point.this person died for who he was, not for a cause.

The terrorist attack in Beirut in Nov 2015 killed many people, but press coverage was much less than it was for the Paris bombing around the same time. This was called out over various media. Why are folks more concerned by the deaths in Paris than Beirut was the message I received. I felt closer to the victims in Paris, it felt close to home. A rock club, a band I had seen in a city I have visited and where I have friends. But I do not see either attack as worse, or more. In both cases, people died, but I cannot help but empathise more with the Paris attack. Still, I felt bad for feeling that way. My own hypocrisy shown to me no mater how I justify it. 

No one complained about this being called out. Messages of support and solidarity flooded in. A group of people had been targeted by a terrorist atrocity for being who they were. That they are not western does not matter. They were killed for where they live. People realised they had neglected it, and tried to correct this. There was no outrage at being shown the hypocrisy compared to Paris. 

Pulse was a terrorist attack specifically against the LGBT community. And it is important to members of the community – even if it seems trivial to you - that this is made clear.

It is important to me. 

So don’t dare tell me it isn’t.