On Sunday, a fiercely homophobic man killed 49 people in a gay club in Orlando with a legally obtained assault rifle and a hand gun. Old Compton Street in Soho is the heart of London's LGBTQ community. On Monday at 7 PM, the bars stopped serving, and their customers poured onto the streets to stand in solidarity with those affected by the deadliest mass shooting in US history.
I went down to ask those who attended one question: How has it affected you?
Andrew Garfield (center)
It's personal. It just is personal. The culture that we're in right now—there's an epidemic of separatism. Violent separatism that's darkly ingrained in our culture. Fifty of our brothers and sisters were heinously murdered because of this false idea that we're not all one. I got filled with rage and grief, and there's nowhere else to be right now apart from here, being a Londoner. It's the best place to come and honor those lives that were stolen. Tonight's an act of grieving. It doesn't matter if I'm queer, gay, or straight. They were my brothers and sisters.
Utterly shocked what happened there. Disgusted at the killings that took place. Proud of the people who have shown up to show their solidarity with the victims. And to show that we are going to defeat this thing with love and solidarity.
Jeremy Joseph (owner of G-A-Y and Heaven, two of London's most popular LGBTQ+ venues)
When I woke up, it was like my nightmares, all my fears, had come true. We've been living under alert for two years, constantly in liaison with Counter Terrorism Police. It's just everything you've had to plan for your own venue has happened to another venue, and you feel physically sick. For our venue, nothing changes, though. People's vigilance has now been heightened. The attack on Orlando is an attack on all communities. I hope the world will come together and support our community.
My brother lives in the states, where shootings happen all the time. He's only nineteen, and he's studying. It's a bigger thing than just our community. For it to hit our community, it hits home a bit more. Fucking horrendous. I don't think I've been emotional yet. It's a real shock. It's devastating. And another thing, it hasn't even been discussed at work today. It was so weird.
That's a big question. I don't think I've fully processed it yet. It's escalated to forty-nine being dead. The access to guns is so easy out there. I went traveling and actually went to a gun range. There was a kid there learning to shoot a gun. That is really worrying. The French attacks brought [terrorism] closer. It's getting closer, and now it's hit the gay community.
It made me realize that despite all the progress that's happened in the last few years, there are people who have a deep hatred of people like me. I'd like to think we're more progressive than America. I feel like that same hatred exists here. It's a real wake up call. It's like someone poured a bucket of ice water over me. I'm like, "Shit! OK then!"
I guess I just immediately thought it could have happened to me or anyone I know. I wanted to get in touch with people and tell them I love them. My family lives in the States. I know how close-minded people can be. Just the absolute insanity of someone doing something like that. Love doesn't hurt them. Whatever the motivation. I just don't understand. It doesn't make sense. I feel like as a community, we've all been persecuted. We all know that feeling separately, but together. You'd think we're safe, but now you never know when some lunatic is going to take out their feelings on us.
I was on the train on the way back home when I saw the news. I burst into tears on the train. It hits you really hard. You hope that society has improved and then something like this happens and you feel like we're going backwards again. It's depressing this is still going on. It gives you more reason to fight, it spurs people on. Even if it's just one person talking to another person about these issues, then that's going to have an effect.
It felt like an attack on all of us. It really hit me as well because it's a huge reminder of how much work there is to be done. Looking at the reaction of the media… it's not a free world yet unfortunately. It's scary coming here tonight, but we can let them scare us away.
Lana Peswani (center)
At first, it didn't sink in. It was another horrible thing that happened in America. Being around my friends who are queer, it affects all of them. It's about the way that we're viewed. People go to gay bars as a sanctuary, and it's so horrible for that not to be a safe place. It's so important that all of us to stand together. I want to see all my other queer friends and make sure they're okay. I'm queer, and I'm proud of it. We're a unit of people that can stand together and change something.
It made me feel like I've taken my gayness for granted. In the past, I've been ashamed. I've generally prided myself for passing as straight and that has to stop. I have to be myself at all times for the sake of our own community. We have to be visible. We can't suppress ourselves to make others around us more comfortable.
I'm from a small town, so I don't feel comfortable being myself there. The fact that happened in a safe space—it's kind of scary. It makes me feel like there isn't going to be anywhere for me to be who I am.
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