Carrie Lyell reflects on how to begin the long process of healing


When I first read about the horrific events in Orlando on Sunday morning, I felt numb. It didn’t matter how many stories I read, or breaking news alerts I received on my phone. I couldn’t shake this emotional daze I was in. 

Now that the shock has worn off, and I’ve had more time to process what happened, I’ve alternated between two states. One of deep sadness and another of furious anger, the like of which I’ve never felt before. There’s a part of me that feels conflicted, like I’m co-opting someone else’s grief. Because I wasn’t there. I don’t know any of the dead personally. I can’t possibly imagine what it must have been like to be in the club as Omar Mateen opened fire. But the horror of this attack resonates not just in Orlando, but across the world. 

This, as Owen Jones pointed out, was the largest single massacre of LGBTQI people since the Second World War. So no wonder we’re hurt. No wonder we’re angry. But as I grieve, I have to find a way to channel the white-hot fury into something positive, lasting and meaningful. Anger is not the destination but the fuel, and my wish is that together we find a way to continue to live our glorious queer lives, because that to me seems the the only fitting way to really honour the victims of Orlando. 

That, of course, is easier said than done, especially as we hear more from the survivors about what happened in Pulse that night. But despite it all, there are a few things that have given me comfort these past few days. I hope you’ll be able to find some comfort in them too. 

It gives me hope that the voices of LGBTQI muslims are being heard. 

It gives me hope that mainstream media are, for once, talking about the intersections between toxic masculinity and endemic homophobia and transphobia in the US and closer to home, and understanding a little about how heteropatriarchy and everyday microagressions against queer trans people of colour give rise to horrific crimes like that of Omar Mateen’s. 

It gives me hope to see the way that, across the world, we have come together as a community to mourn our brothers and sisters who lost their lives this past weekend. I feel loved and supported by my fellow queers like never before, and that is incredibly important. 

It gives me hope hearing from heterosexual friends and family members who want to be better allies, and who now feel galvanised like never before to confront and challenge homophobia, biphobia and transphobia however minor it may seem. 

It gives me hope to see the strength and defiance of London’s LGBTQI community, who came out in massive numbers on Monday night in a show of solidarity for the victims in Orlando. Sometimes I feel like the notion of community based on sexuality and gender identity is a nonsense, especially when there’s often more than divides us than unites us, but as I wept openly on Old Compton Street with people of every sexual orientation and gender identity, of every race and religion, I felt perhaps for the first time in my life like I belonged to something.  

It gives me hope to hear Pulse owner Barbara Poma, who opened the club in honour of her gay brother who died from AIDS related illnesses, say that they will reopen, and pledge to keep the memories of the victims alive. “We welcome those families into our family, and we just have to move forward and find a way to keep their hearts beating and the spirit alive. We’re not going to allow anyone to take that away from us.”

In gives me hope to see countries where homosexuality is illegal, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, condemning the attack. While this might stink of hypocrisy to some, the optimist in me wants to believe that the global outpouring of anger and sadness about this tragic event might make policy makers think a little differently about how they treat their LGBTQI citizens. 

In gives me hope to see faith leaders showing their support with the LGBTQI community. In light of the events in Orlando, muslim leaders across the world have condemned Mateen’s actions, and next weekend 150 LGBTQI people and straight allies will walk in the Christians at Pride parade group, representing Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Baptists, Quakers, the MCC and individual churches. Peter Crawford, one of the founders of Christians at Pride, explained: “Some argue that Christians as a whole are actively perpetrating damage to LGBT+ individuals in society. [But] the various organisations in Christians at Pride represent the side of Christianity that fully embraces individuals regardless their sexual orientation and gender identity. Our affirming message, contrasting with that of the handful of Christians who still picket the parade, is important for people of all faiths and none.” 

It gives me hope to see people on social media talking about #myfirstgaybar and how important those spaces, like Pulse, have been and still are to so many of us. As Dr Kristopher Wells puts it, “When the weight of this immense tragedy seems too much to bear, I read #myfirstgaybar and my sense of love, hope and community are renewed”. 

It gives me hope to see the generosity of those who have raised over $4million in less than two days for Equality Florida’s Pulse Victim Fund, and those who so selflessly have given their time and energy to help those families and survivors so desperately in need.

It would be easy to let ourselves become completely consumed by sadness, but like we’ve done as a community so many times before, we must keep on living and loving. Let’s make sure that our indefatigable spirit, shown time and time again by generations of queers before us, becomes the legacy of Orlando. 

@Seej. This article first appeared online back in 2016 following the Pulse shooting in Orlando.

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