After Orlando

It is difficult to know where to begin.

This has been an uncomfortable week to occupy space in the world.

As a person whose identity is bound up in being female, being LGBTQ, believing in liberal democracy.

A little over a week ago, I gave a speech in which I called upon people to play their part in dismantling systems that have kept the oppressed oppressed. I was speaking particularly about the place of people who are gay and lesbian in Scottish Episcopal Church, but I was also speaking about all people of all races and religions and nationalities and sexualities and gender identities and all differences that have led to the Church as seeing them as Other.

I did not know when I said that that less than 48 hours later, there would be a massacre of the LGBTQ community in Florida. In the supposed land of the free and the home of the brave.

And nor did I know when I said that that this week there would be a political assassination on a British street, of a woman of conviction and principle who died because she believed in justice and equality and the possibility of a better world.

Why do I think that marriage equality is important? Why do I still think in the face of death and destruction and chaos that this is something still worth fighting for?

Because every time we declare that marginalised people of any kind are less important, are less than fully human, are not equal but are equal but must be separate, every time, that voice lends legitimacy to racism and misogyny and small-mindedness and homophobia.

And every time we say fuck that, that voice makes the world a little bit better.

In church this morning, all three people on the altar were LGBT. It wasn’t on purpose. It isn’t the first time. It probably wasn’t noticed by three quarters of the people in the congregation. It wasn’t a statement, but it felt like one anyway.

I am aware that I speak from a place of extraordinary privilege — a place of being white, being Western, being middle class. I am aware that when I say it has been an uncomfortable week, I am also saying that I cannot conceive of the ten thousand times anger and pain of my lesbian and gay sisters and brothers who are Muslim and Latinx nor of the real fear of migrants and refugees in the UK that they now have a target painted on their backs.

It’s only politics, they tell me.

Except, we know — we have always known — that “only” politics is “only” a matter of literal life and death.

This week, in all the confusion, in all the not knowing what to say, I’ve been looking for God. For a God who doesn’t exist in the ephemeral or in the thoughts and prayers and best wishes. For a God who exists in the helpers. In the emergency services and the bystanders. In the people and voices that have taken this week onto the street and the airwaves to say that hate will never ever win. In my own queer family. In the voice of Jo Cox, and the creed of decency and humanity that she died for and that I hold to be Gospel truth.

We remember and hold before us the legacy of people who swore to change the world — from Birstall to Orlando, from the Stonewall riots to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, the saints and martyrs who have gone before us.

It’s up to us now.

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One comment

  1. This is beautifully written from your heart. It’s always been ‘up to us’. It’s always been up to us to open our eyes to see the family members and neighbours and friends who are marginalized in ways that aren’t obvious in our everyday encounters with them – to open up our eyes and then to open our mouths to speak up when we hear or see ugliness, unfairness or intolerance. I wish we lived in a world in which it didn’t matter whether one was straight or LGBTQ – in which it wouldn’t have been remarkable that the three on the altar were LGBTQ – but we don’t live in that world, so I will remark that I’d have been heartened to have been in the congregation.


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