“[We] don’t need sympathy. We need rights.”
Credit: Ben Vogel via Instagram

Following the mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull delivered a statement that invoked considerable criticism for ostensibly minimising the nature of the attack for what it was: the worst homophobic hate crime of its kind on American soil since 1973 and the largest targeted mass murder of LGBT people in the western world since the Holocaust.

Delivered in a press conference, Turnbull’s initial statements on Monday failed to mention that the attack took place in a gay nightclub, and that many of the victims were queer men and women attending a night where trans Latina women were the headlining talent. The omission is significant one, made all the more poignant by the fact that LGBT people – and trans* people in particular – have historically faced systemic erasure of the kind not enjoyed by dominant heteronormative narratives. 

It’s heartening then to see Australian musician Troye Sivan, 21, emerge as one such vocal critic of Turnbull.

Following Turnbull’s initial statement, Sivan penned a series of tweets taking the PM to task over his omission of the fact “that this was an attack on LGBT people in an LGBT space”. Sivan then took aim at the hypocrisy inherent in Turnbull’s recurring “attack on all of us” sentiments while he leads a party that legislates and perpetuates fundamental social discrimination by failing to enact marriage equality laws. 

It’s worth nothing that Turnbull was not alone in downplaying that Pulse, a gay nightclub, had been targeted. The New York Times and the Daily Mail both failed to include a crucial and unavoidable fact about this indelible horror.  

Guardian UK journalist Owen Jones also brought this argument to the fore after experiencing firsthand the erasure of LGBT people in the media while appearing on Sky News overnight. Jones, who is gay, was forced to walk off “in disgust” after host Mark Longhurst “refused to accept it as an attack on LGBT people” and became “increasingly agitated” that Jones would “claim it as such”.

“This isn’t about LGBT people taking ownership of the pain and anguish,” Jones has reflected today in the Guardian. “People of all sexual orientations have wept over this massacre, and all communities should unite in grief.

“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.”
Longhurst has since issued what Jones has described “a non-apology“, expressing his “regret” that the latter felt the need to walk off. 

“As the presenter responsible for chairing the conversation, I regret that the segment ended as it did,” wrote Longhurst, whose actions inspired 60 complaints to UK communications regulator Ofcom following the incident.

“I absolutely accept the atrocity in Florida was, of course, an attack on LGBT people, but I was also trying to reflect what was on the newspaper front pages. It was never my intention to offend Owen Jones and I very much look forward to working with him again in future.”

Jones has since issued the following powerful video message that’s well worth a watch below. The takeaway? Love wins, every time.

Tile and cover image: @troyesivan