Panti took to the stage at the European Equality Gala to give a speech about equality after Orlando mass shooting
Panti Bliss walked on to the European Equality Gala stage to rapturous applause that continued for half a minute.
“You can stop [applauding],” begins Panti, adorned in a sequinned purple dress. “I know that the only reason that you are doing that is because I look fucking amazing.”
“I do know that it has been a difficult and tumultuous few weeks for the LGBTI community and, of course, for Europe.”
Living In A Bubble
“I think often for many of us […] it can be very easy for us to forget that we actually live in a very privileged bubble. And sometimes that bubble can be so clear that we don’t even remember that it’s there until we walk into its edges and then we realise actually how small it is.”
“Orlando, Florida is firmly inside our bubble, and yet that bubble did not protect forty-nine souls from hate a number of weeks ago. Orlando, Florida has marriage equality but that didn’t protect forty-nine members of our community from homophobia.”
“The word homophobia was coined in the 1960s by an American psychotherapist who wanted a word that gave meaning to the idea that the problem is not with gay people. The problem is with people who harbour prejudices against the LGBTI community.
“Until he coined the word homophobia, there was no language to express that. Until he coined the word homophobia, we only had language that put the blame on LGBTI people for their own oppression and not on their oppressors.
“It was a very controversial word then and it remains a very controversial word today.”
We Are Orlando
“And we saw that in the news and weeks after Orlando when news outlets and politicians and others shied away from using the word homophobia to describe that attack.
“The felt in a sense more comfortable saying it was an attack on freedom, or an attack on liberalism, or an attack on the West. Well meaningly, they said we are all Orlando when in actual fact we are not all Orlando. But we are Orlando.
“[Homophobia] is still a powerful word, it bothers people. Sometimes you can get into a lot of trouble for using the word homophobia, and I can attest to that.”
“I have been sued for defamation by a whole bunch of people whom I suggested are a bunch of homophobe- sorry, my lawyer prefers if I say allegedly suggested are a bunch of homophobes. And these people are people who actively campaign for gay people to be treated different than everyone else.”
“Since when did ‘homophobe’ become the worst thing that you can call someone?”
“And, by the way, homophobe is not the worst thing you can call someone. Nigel Farage is.”
Responsibility To Change
“It’s quite clear that nowadays even homophobes don’t want people to call them homophobe. […] Because they recognise that it’s a word that puts the onus on them to change rather than on us.
“It’s another funny reaction to homophobe. Because what the homophobe doesn’t like about it is they hear the word ‘phobia’ and they say I’m not afraid of you. And of course I suspect that they’re probably not afraid of us. […] But they are afraid of what the world will look like when the LGBTI people are treated with the same respect as everybody else.”
“And they’re afraid that there’ll be no space for them in that world.”
Shared LGBTI Experience
“In the days after and the weeks after Orlando, I think the wider community struggled to understand why the LGBTI community around the world took it so personally. […] I think the reason we did is because there is a shared experience of being LGBTI. There is a shared transnational experience of being LGBTI […] that crosses national and cultural boundaries.”
“We all know what it feels like to be outside of the protective bubble. […] to be the subject of ridicule or scorn […] We all know what it feels like to hear men in pulpits diminish or minimise us and we all know what it feels like to hear ‘reasonable’ politicians having ‘reasonable’ discussions about what rights we deserve or don’t deserve.”
“And more than that, we all know what it is like every single day […] to modulate our gayness so as to be safe. We all know what it’s like not to talk too gay, not to act too gay, not to dress too gay, not to use your hands too gay.”
“For many of us, the very first time that we felt totally and utterly free to be ourselves in every way was the first time that we went to a gay bar. I think for LGBTI people bars are more than just bars – they are our community centres and our sanctuaries.”
“I have never been, in my life, to Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, but that doesn’t matter because I know it like the back of my hand.
“I know the kind of people that were there, I know the fun that they were having, I know the freedom that they felt to be able to be themselves, totally.
“I know the boys that they were kissing and I know the music they were dancing to. Because I have kissed those very same boys and I have danced to that very same music.
“I have never been to Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and yet I have spent some of the best times of my life there.
“Orlando is firmly inside our bubble and yet that did not protect it from hate. Orlando had marriage equality and yet that did not protect it from homophobia.”
Panti goes on to remind the audience that it is good to step outside of the bubble every now and again to remind ourselves of the struggle that LGBT people face across the world in places like Istanbul and Moscow.
Watch Panti’s full speech at the European Equality Gala in Brussels below:
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