Earlier this week, myself and my extended "gay family" (more on this in another post) attended the London vigil for the victims of the Orlando terrorist attack. It was an incredibly moving event that made me proud to be gay. The crowds of people reinforced in me that incredible feeling of community, and opened my eyes once again to the fact that we cannot forget we stand on the shoulders of giants. We gather and remember because of the legacy of those before us that have fought for our rights and our liberation.
It was not lost on me that there was a police presence at the vigil . Not so long ago, the police were instrumental to state-sanctioned homophobia, including raids on, and the regular harassment and criminalisation of LGBT people. While the police at last night's event were there in a protective capacity, let us not forget that the fight for LGBT rights was born out of a police raid on the Stonewall Inn.
Despite this coming together of LGBT people all over the world; despite the fund set up in honour of the Pulse victims currently sitting at just over $4 million and despite being surrounded by a palpable sense of solidarity and love within the community, one thing was lacking for me.
My Twitter feed has been rammed with news regarding the Orlando attack over the last few days. From breaking news and pictures of vigils all over the world, to LGBT people sharing their experiences and small businesses opening their doors to the community (no strings attached). This has manifested a genuine atmosphere of camaraderie: everyone is a little bit afraid, everyone is distraught and most poignantly, everyone is offering help to one another in whatever way possible. My Facebook feed, however, has been conspicuously empty. All of those allies who are so keen to don the flag and face paint when it's time for Pride, those allies who were so quick to proclaim "Je Suis Charlie" and prayed for Paris and Brussels, are silent. A few profile pictures have changed (and those are my LGBT friends), but nowhere near as many as for Pride last summer, and not even close the amount of red, white and blue filters in solidarity for Paris.
Now I'm not trying to say that we should be playing terrorism top trumps, but if you are an ally of the LGBT cause (and I would hope that if you are friends with LGBT people you count yourself as one), you do not get to opt out when times are difficult. I cannot help but feel as though a large percentage of "allies" are keen to participate in the fun and in the spoils of victory, like celebrating equal marriage, but where are they when times are tough? How many allies would have stood in solidarity during the AIDS crisis? How many have lobbied against discriminatory bathroom laws? How many will enjoy a night out in gay bars or LGBT venues now there is a real and present danger in doing so?
Because the thing is, that danger never went away for your LGBT friends and family. They don't have the choice to opt in or out of this fight. And I promise you your silence will not be inconspicuous. It will be noticed, consciously or otherwise, by your LGBT friends, whether they are out or not. And we may feel a little less sure of your alliance because of it.
So if, in the wake of the largest attack on LGBT people since the Holocaust, you haven't got a spare 5 seconds to share a status proclaiming "We are Orlando", you should really consider whether you count yourself an LGBT ally at all.