On Sunday night – less than 24 hours after Omar Mateen killed 49 people in Orlando, Florida for being gay – Owen Jones, the gay journalist, took part in a review of the papers on Sky News. He ended up walking off the show, in disbelief and disgust at the utter denial he encountered from the segment’s presenter (and, to a lesser extent, his fellow panellist) that homophobia had any significant part to play in that morning’s events.
He was informed that those who died were killed because they were at a nightclub enjoying themselves, not because they were gay. (This despite the fact that the murderer’s father had already gone on record to state that his son had been angered by seeing two men kissing.) He was instructed that he had to make a distinction between an act of terror and a homophobic hate crime: that a single event could be either the former or the latter, but not both. (This despite the fact that the utter extremity of homophobia is a key component of the ISIS ideology of hate that Mateen claimed to have been inspired by.)
This treatment of Mr Jones was personally insensitive, but it was also revealing of something rotten in our society. The unpalatable truth is that LGBT people – and our many straight, cisgendered allies – have been engaged in a struggle against homophobia on two fronts: against active homophobes themselves; but also against those who insist that homophobia does not exist, or is wholly trivial, or is the fault of gay people ourselves, for ‘flaunting’ our difference.