An article published by a well-respected and leading gay magazine caused controversy this week when it claimed that lunatic terrorist Salmon Abedi was targeting gay men when he cowardly blew himself up at the Ariana Grande gig in Manchester.
The passionate article, clearly written by a man deeply moved by the atrocity, was subsequently attacked by gay men and women alike who thought the piece was misjudged and offensive to the other innocents who had died in the blast.
One reader raged: “No it was an attack on OUR freedom. all of us not just women/one gay guy. put those cards back in the deck already.”
“This was NOT a gay hate crime!?! What a f**king disgusting and disrespectful article!”
Another raged: “I am offended by this, I can’t even begin to think how anyone impacted by what happened would feel.”
Here, GuysLikeU columnist Andy West, a seasoned journalist, responds to what was raised in the article and argues that the actions of Salmon Abedi were directed at western society, not just gay men and women.
It’s now almost a week since the attack inside the foyer of Manchester Arena that killed 22 people and injured many more.
I watched the news come in live and felt, as so many felt, a sense of shock and horror but also an all-too familiar feeling that we will see more bloodshed yet.
In the hours that followed, we discovered a little girl had been murdered when the nail bomb exploded at 10.30pm. Just 8-years-old. Since, we have watched as screenshots of social media thumbnails have made their way online, revealing the happy, smiling faces of the lost.
How familiar they look, even though they are strangers. They are familiar because they are us. Fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, sisters and brothers: all of them innocent people living everyday lives.
The dead reflect Salman Abedi’s intentions: to try and turn his own hollow, meagre, weak life into something significant and to strike at Western Society. He – like all terrorists – has failed in his first objective. He remains pathetic. But I worry that these attacks are affecting our society in a profound though not always obvious way.
I could have predicted that the anti-Muslim, anti-immigration league’s ranks would swell; that is inevitable. What saddened me was the response to the attack of some parts of gay society and gay media when it was revealed that one of our own, Martyn Hett, had lost his life in the explosion.
One gay magazine’s website quickly responded to the news, with an article titled: ‘THE MANCHESTER BOMBING WAS AN ATTACK ON YOUNG WOMEN AND QUEER PEOPLE EMBRACING THEIR FREEDOM’
This, to me, feels like a mistake, though in the reeling moments following the loss of a beloved friend and colleague, an understandable one. I was never fortunate enough to meet Martyn and I can only imagine what cold shock his friends and family must have felt when they learned that he had been killed.
In no way do I criticise their anger at Abedi and I can see absolutely why it must have felt, in that moment, that he was killed in part for his pride as a gay man.
And yet, fundamentally, that seems unlikely. In what we know, it doesn’t look like the bomber was attacking queer people. Three heterosexual men were killed that night and one teenage boy who was at the Ariana Grande concert with his girlfriend. Nine straight women lost their lives as well as eight girls.
To characterise the events of Monday night as an attack on gay people strikes a discordant note when we are still working to encourage acceptance of LGBT+ people beyond the bubble of the London media set. I’m afraid it will smack of self-indulgence and an attempted appropriation of a horror that ought to be shared by all.
It is true that Ariana Grande is a vocal supporter of gay rights, as all pop stars hoping to sell records are wise to be, but there is no evidence that Salman Abedi was seeking to kill gay men when he built his bomb and walked into the foyer of the Manchester Arena. If gay men or gay culture had been his target, wouldn’t he have gone to a gay bar or club? Wouldn’t he have waited for Pride?
No. It was an attack on Western culture; an attack on parents wanting their children to enjoy music, on girls getting an education and wearing their clothes and hair as they wish, on people being allowed to express their sexuality whatever it might be, on our acceptance of alcohol in our lives, on our capitalism, our hedonism, our freedom.
We, as members of the LGBT+ community can be thankful that our rights and freedoms are now woven tightly into that Western culture.
Today British society bears another scorch mark and yes, a beautiful, creative, clever, kind gay man will forever be a part of the scar, but so will eight girls, nine heterosexual women, one boy and three heterosexual men.
With such a long history of brutalisation – particularly at the hands of Islam and Christianity – it is easy for gay men to feel instantly as though we are under particular attack.
But this is not the time to claim ownership of the grief and anger following the sickening events in Manchester. We, as British people, must accept the pain and the anger as one, so that we can move on with strength and unity and prove that our will to maintain freedom and joy is undiminished.
The 22 people who died in the tragic bombings are:
Megan Hurley, 15, Liverpool
Elaine McIver, 43, Cheshire
Courtney Boyle, 19, Gateshead
Philip Tron, 32, Gateshead
Wendy Fawell, 50, Otley, Leeds
Eilidh MacLeod, 14, Isle of Barra
Chloe Rutherford, 17, South Shields
Liam Curry, 19, South Shields
Sorrell Leczkowski, 14, Leeds
Michelle Kiss, 45, Blackburn
Jane Tweddle-Taylor, 51, Blackpool
Nell Jones, 14, Goostrey, Cheshire
Martyn Hett, 29, Stockport
Angelika Klis, 40, PolandMarcin Klis, 42, Poland
Olivia Campbell, 15, Bury
Alison Howe, 44, Royton
Lisa Lees, 43, RoytonKelly Brewster, 32, Sheffield
Saffie Rose Roussos, 8, Tarleton, Lancs
Georgina Callander, 18, Whittle-le-Woods, Lancs
John Atkinson, 26, Radcliffe, Manchester
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