We’ve all been shocked and heartbroken by the Orlando killings, but we never give up hope, we, the LGBTQ community and our non-LGBTQ friends. We work hard together, to grow stronger, to make change for ourselves and those who live in countries where we would be killed for having a same sex partner. We work hard for those who are unable to be out about their sexuality, we work hard to make them feel comfortable and safe and okay to say, this is my life, this is who I am, without fear of being disowned by their families and friends, or killed. Organisations like Stonewall and Diversity Role Models, and ordinary people like me, work hard in our every day lives to make it better, by just being out and proud and try to be good role models.

I spoke to my mother this morning about the Orlando killings. She said she had cried again, for the loss of lives, for the waste of lives. She said, I don’t understand it, I cannot comprehend it. This from my mother who took 9 years to know my wife. This from my mother, whose husband wouldn’t meet my wife for 9 years, who refused to know her, to love her because she was a woman, this from my mother, who, when she and my dad did finally, come to our home 9 years later, and break mince pies, began to love Stella, accept her as one of the family, made a speech at our wedding, included her in the family tree, this from the mother who has apologised more than once for the hard time they gave us. But we never gave up. We never stopped trying or believing that it would be okay. We never gave up hope. I used to lie awake at night worrying about one of my parents dying or Stella dying and how horrendous it would be for none of them to have known each other, to have never seen their brilliance, to never understand why I loved them all. I am lucky it all turned out okay, but those who know me know it was hard, unbearable at times. There were a lot of tears.

I have seen suggestions that the man who killed so many innocent, life loving people in Orlando, may have been gay. If he was, it breaks my heart to think the only way he could deal with his sexuality was by turning his back on it and killing those he was like, wanted to be like, refused to be like, wasn’t allowed to be like because of his religious belief or just his belief. Religion is often used as an excuse to hate, but look at all the faithful people who do not hate, who accept, who welcome, who live and let live. We have a choice, we can choose to hate or to disagree and leave it at that. It’s not okay to take a life, it is never okay to take a life.

And all of this happened in America, a land of such contradictions, where Dan Patrick, a ferocious anti-LGBT campaigner and Lieutenant Governor of Texas tweeted (and then deleted) ‘Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Galations 6:7’. America, a country where equal marriage is allowed, but in many states where law does not protect employees in the private sector from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation; does not protect employees in the private sector from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and/or gender expression, does not expressly protect employees of state and local governments from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, does not expressly protect employees of state and local governments from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and/or gender expression. America, where guns are available at service stations and shops, where change is happening, but hatred is still rife. And not just in America, there are approximately 77 countries where it is still illegal to be gay. Where gay men and women, trans and queer people have to lie, hide and trust that no one will tell.

So we work harder, to make it okay for all of us, to help those who follow certain faiths understand that they can choose to make it okay, that they can disagree with another and not take a life. That words are words, but actions are stronger and more powerful. It’s powerful to kill someone, but so much more powerful not to kill, to accept to disagree and move on. This is when real change takes place.

We won’t give up the fight for those of us who live freely but who still live with fear. We don’t give up fighting for those who cannot be who they are, who live with constant fear of being found out and killed. I will never give up, because those from the LGBTQ community who came before me, have made it okay for me to be who I am, to marry my beloved, to have equal rights, to have human rights. Equal rights are a human right. We all deserve both.

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