The Piece About How Far Some Will Go To Ignore Homophobia

The Piece About How Far Some Will Go To Ignore Homophobia

Written by Owen Jones and originally published on

Orlando was both a terrorist attack and a homophobic attack on LGBT people. It was both the worst mass shooting in US history, and the worst targeted mass killing of LGBT people in the western world since the Holocaust. It is possible for an atrocity to be more than one thing at the same time. You are not compelled to select one option or the other. Life – with both its horrors and its joys – is incredibly complicated, and we have a rich language able to capture its complexities.

I am reluctant to dwell too much on my appearance on Sky News last night, because this isn’t about me, so let’s just use it as a case study. In sum, I walked off in disgust during a discussion about the massacre: it was an instinctive reaction to an unpleasant and untenable situation. The presenter continually and repeatedly refused to accept that this was an attack on LGBT people. This was an attack “against human beings”, he said, and “the freedom of all people to try to enjoy themselves”. He not only refused to accept it as an attack on LGBT people, but was increasingly agitated that I – as a gay man – would claim it as such.

If a terrorist with a track record of expressing hatred of and disgust at Jewish people had walked into a synagogue and murdered 50 Jewish people, we would rightly describe it as both terrorism and an antisemitic attack. If a Jewish guest on television had tried to describe it as such, it would be disgraceful if they were not only contradicted, but shouted down as they did so. But this is what happened on Sky News with a gay man talking about the mass murder of LGBT people.

This isn’t about LGBT people taking ownership of the pain and anguish. 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. When the neo-Nazi terrorist David Copeland detonated a nail bomb in the Admiral Duncan gay pub in 1999, one of the fatalities was a straight pregnant woman, having a drink with her husband and her gay friends. LGBT people are part of the wider community, and LGBT people and their straight friends party together in LGBT venues. But this was a deliberate attack on a LGBT venue and LGBT people. According to Omar Mateen’s father, the reportedly Islamic State-supporting terrorist had expressed revulsion at the sight of two men kissing. His co-workers have described his anti-gay comments. 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.

It wasn’t only Sky News at fault. In the New York Times’ original reporting, it didn’t even point out that a gay club had been targeted. The Daily Mail didn’t bother to put the atrocity – the worst terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11 – on its front page, instead opting to stir up xenophobia over Turkish immigrants and publicising an offer of “free pearl and white sapphire earrings”. This is erasure of LGBT people – pure and simple – after their community was horrifically targeted.

LGBT people are varied, and have different experiences: the life experiences of a young working-class gay black woman and a gay white male multi-millionaire CEO are very different. But we all grow up in a society that still treats us as if we are inferior: we have all repeatedly encountered homophobic abuse, the stress of coming out repeatedly, or the fear of holding hands with a partner in public. To imagine LGBT people who may have endured distress and internalised prejudice – just because of who they are – spending their last moments in terror as a homophobic terrorist hunted them down is just unbearable.

Today, the “we only care about LGBT rights if Muslims are involved” brigade are out in force. As a gay man, I am proud to live in a city represented by a Muslim mayor who has faced death threats for supporting and voting for LGBT people to have the same rights as everybody else. The bigots must not be allowed to hijack this atrocity.


This piece comes on the heels of the writer, Guardian columnist Owen Jones walking off Sky News’ Press Preview show on Sunday night (12 June), after clashing with fellow guests over the motives of the lone gunman who opened fire in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub killing 50 people.

Jones accused host, Mark Longhurst and fellow commentator Julia Hartley-Brewer of “trying to deflect” discussion around the homophobic element of the attack, noting that Omar Mateen, the man identified by officials as the offender, had targeted a gay club.

During a heated debate, the Chavs author, who is gay himself, relayed concerns that media outlets were failing to “call out” the attack for being “a homophobic hate crime as well as terrorism.”

“At the end of the day this was a homophobic hate crime as well as terrorism and it has to be called out, as I have to say, on Sky News and lots of news channels, there’s not been many LGBT voices that I’ve heard myself,” he said. “It is one of the worst atrocities committed against LGBT people in the western world for generations and it has to be called out as such.”

Check a video of the interview below.

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  1. Mandy
    June 14, 05:45 Reply

    It’s both a hate crime and an act of terrorism. It’s not one or the other. It should be called what it is. If that guy had killed one or two persons, it’d be ok to be seen as a hate crime, abi? This isn’t about appropriating a tragedy. It’s about acknowledging a fact.

    • Shuga chocolata
      June 14, 09:47 Reply

      Thank you Mandy.

      And to add I’ll walk outta the interview like Nene leakes would have done classy and so elegant without saying a word.??????????

  2. Absalom
    June 14, 07:12 Reply

    He should have stormed out a long time ago. Homophobes are simply amazing; I live for the day science will begin to study their brains, just as they did ours decades ago, to figure out what is wrong.

    Nice one, Owen Jones.

  3. ambivalentone
    June 14, 07:18 Reply

    All these rancour sef. In my mind, it plays as ‘I am gay, so I MUST be given this job even if my credentials don’t measurr” as against “I am deserving of this job, but I am also gay” at a job placement. Perhaps not being a persona non grata is enough to not wound my sensibilities

    • Pink Panther
      June 14, 07:22 Reply

      Ambivalentone, this is a very unfair assessment and characterization of his indignation.

      • ambivalentone
        June 14, 07:52 Reply

        And like I said, perhaps being declared a person after years of being ignored is not making me ‘assess his indignation fairly’. Someone pointed out majorly latinos visit the club. It could have been d Orlando version of Charleston having already established not only gay ppl visit gay clubs. After all, his colleague has let on he was racist, as well as bigot. Human lives were lost. Not latinos. Not gay. HUMANS!

        • Tiercel de Claron
          June 14, 13:12 Reply

          Say it loud,ambi

          We’re humans first,and gay.Human lives matter,be they gay,bent,crooked,jew or Latino.
          All this entitlement ish we’re trying to pull….

  4. Henrie
    June 14, 07:32 Reply

    That walkout was both unnecessary, childish, and tasteless. He should’ve listened to the lady beside more, but he wasn’t it. This is the problem with those who believe in peace, love and justice. Always too divided by reason to achieve anything while the real enemy is out there ever united and strong.

    Homophobia falls within the larger spectrum of hate and ignorance threatening our world today. Although its peculiarity must be acknowledged, that doesn’t stop us from recognizing the fact that we’re not the only ones the ‘lunatics’ hope to harm. This extremist politics of identity and appropriation is irrational. Yes, this is homophobia. Yet, it is one out of the many terrorist attacks and mass shootings the western world is dealing with today.

    • DeadlyDarius
      June 14, 09:29 Reply

      He had an emotional response to an uncomfortable and humiliating situation. How does that make him childish? Because he is gay? If a news show host and anchor teamed up to deny that an anti-Semitic man that killed 50 ppl in a synagogue committed an anti-Semitic terrorist attack, would you imagine the outrage? Those reporters could hv lost their jobs

      But because he is trying to ‘build bridges’, he must sit down and shut up and swallow what they hv concluded and ‘move on’, abi?

  5. Delle
    June 14, 11:18 Reply

    Like I have earlier stated, it’s so much easier to ignore something no matter how conspicuous it is than having to face it head-on and making a decision.
    The causative agent in all of this was that sighting of two men kissing. What more does one need to understand that it was a hate crime?

    • Delle
      June 14, 12:46 Reply

      Imagine. I don’t know why someone would want to subject himself to frustration and self-loathing all his life. Must you get married to a woman? Isn’t it obvious (going by this info) that he was frustrated and bitter and decided to transfer the aggression on those living the life he couldn’t live?
      And a wife beater? I’m not surprised. I’m just sorry for the women that get married to such men. That’s why I say you should tell your wife what it is you are prior to the commencement of the marriage rites. If she still agrees to go into the marriage, fine. If not, shun the society and spare us bad news like this! Jeez!

      • pete
        June 14, 14:01 Reply

        And a wife beater? I’m not surprised. I’m just sorry for the women that get married to such men. That’s why I say you should tell your wife what it is you are prior to the commencement of the marriage rites. If she still agrees to go into the marriage, fine. If not, shun the society and spare us bad news like this! Jeez!

        You mean telling his wife about his sexuality? I’m still trying to see how that will stop any of the things he did. Let’s focus on the issue here.

      • ambivalentone
        June 14, 14:26 Reply

        Let’s not lose focus here. The reason I brought this up is not because of any MGM (today is just not that day). It is a poor attempt at saving face by an extremists’ adopted religion. He was supposedly gay, but set off by two men kissing? Biko, how does that add up?

    • Tiercel de Claron
      June 14, 13:34 Reply

      “He was a mentally deranged psychopathic American closet homosexual who was battling with his sexual identity.”

      This is what we should be analyzing,not who mentioned the word gay in their comment and who did not.

  6. Brian Collins
    June 14, 12:02 Reply

    It’s all just too much for me. That could have been any of us. We should just stop labelling this. In my heart of hearts, I cried hard because majority of those people would have been gay people and that could have been me or anyone else i know but I do not want to dwell it because they are infact humans first. I was truely horrified after the Paris attacks and even the woman that was beheaded in the north cos she was human. I cry when I watch betrayals of spouses on ‘Happily Never After’ and ‘I survived’ (TV shows on SonyMax) because human lives were wasted. All arguments should stop please. I just know I am too shaken to engage anyone.

  7. Doe eyed monster
    June 14, 15:48 Reply

    Biko tell this to the rubbish people on my bbm list o,,, who claim the victims deserved it cause they are gay,,, I have schooled them sha, Buh it’s just disappointing to hear university graduates talking like this, I mean, isn’t this meant to be a more enlightened generation?

    • ambivalentone
      June 14, 15:52 Reply

      Its the post-graduates’ opinions that actually make me cringe. One fool came in the tv room, saw d news and exclaimed “Gay club??? I support!!!”

      • Doe eyed monster
        June 14, 16:17 Reply

        I swear,,, just opposite my room in a postgraduate hostel, I heard a lot of trash from my “neighbours” ,,, initially, I wanted to go there and address them, but I just remembered all the other opinions they have had on other topics they have discussed and casually went back to work,,, no time to waste of ignorant graduates mehn,

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