Two Years After The Orlando Massacre America's Pro-Gun LGBT Community Is On The Rise
In 2017 there were 52 anti-LGBTQ murders reported. That's one per week for the year. Now a growing community is arming themselves to fight back.
On June 12 2016 a 29-year-old walked into the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and opened fire, killing 49 and wounding 53 in the deadliest attack against LGBTQ people in US history.
Two years later communities like the Pink Pistols, groups of pro-gun LGBTQ people, are on the rise.
"Before the shooting in Orlando membership was less than 2,000 people across America," SBS's Patrick Abboud told ten daily, "days later that spiked, now it's over 10,000".
After hearing about these communities of pro-gun queer people in the states Abboud travelled to America to find out more, making the doco Gays & Guns.
"Gay hate crimes are at their worst in the U.S." Abbout said, "It's so alarming. When I first heard these stats I thought they were factually incorrect because they're so alarming".
"There's an organisation called the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs that put out a report saying in 2017 there were 52 reported anti-LGBTQ murders."
That number works out to be exactly one reported LGBTQ homicide a week in 2017, an 86% increase from 2016. Abboud also said that number was an under-count.
As a response, memberships of organisations like the Pink Pistols began to climb as many queer people in the U.S. saw the need to arm themselves as a measure of protection.
"Gay hate crimes are at their worst," Abbout said, "Many of the members told me it's a lot to do with the current political climate".
While it's common to assume pro-gun groups tend to lean toward conservative politics it may not necessarily be so for the Pink Pistols.
"There's a great quote from the head of one of the chapters who said the groups bring different types of American queers together... and it's because they don't want to die."
For the second year in a row U.S. President Donald Trump has failed to recognise Pride Month. The Trump Administration also attempted to ban transgender soldiers from the military and went so far as to remove any mention of LGBTQ issues from the Department of State website.
"When the nation's leaders are making anti-LGBTQ laws, when these bills are being passed, it emboldens the population to discriminate."
While groups like the Pink Pistols are a mixed bag politically, Abboud said many resent being lumped in with the National Rifle association due to its history of being homophobic and transphobic.
In the special Abboud was confronted with seeing guns for the first time, walking into one man's home where within minutes he pulled 15 to 16 weapons out from every corner of his bedroom. In order to understand the man's point of view he convinced Abboud to fire his first gun.
I was coming from a place where we have really stringent gun control. He was coming from a place where guns outnumber people."
"I didn't enjoy it," he explained, "but it was an interesting conversation. The first gun he put in my hands was the same model used in the Parkland shooting. I put that to him and we had a great debate."
"I felt really challenged and I think a lot of people may see these communities and immediately judge them. At the same time I came to understand why they feel the way they do in the United States," he said.
"Trump's America is a new world. It's quite a scary time for any minority... having a firearm could mean the difference for living or dying as a queer person in the US right now."
Gays & Guns premieres Tuesday 12 June at 7.30 on SBS VICELAND and on SBS at 10.
Featured image: SBS / supplied.