COLLECTIVELY, many LGBTI people and communities across the globe have experienced acutely the emotions associated with grief in response to the horrific massacre in Orlando. Unhelpfully, these have been exacerbated by the subsequent media positioning and political rhetoric.

A salve to this grief has been many overwhelmingly positive displays of support from allies, particularly played out through social media, as well as attendance at vigils and rainbow reflections lighting global monuments.

However, what has increasingly frustrated and shocked me, to the point of despair, is the obvious lack of empathy, not just from opponents, but from some leaders and media outlets who have long claimed to be allies and who understand our struggle.

This experience provides a key learning for us as a community. It exemplifies the ongoing need to be visible and vigilant. It tells us we cannot count on progress, we need to create it.

There has been much written and broadcast over the last few days on the attempts to leave LGBTI people and places, out of Orlando. In effect, this serves to ‘gloss over’ our experiences, lessen our historical contexts, and render us invisible.

We have had to walk out, shout loud and “write angry” to make sure our identities, our cultures and our human condition was in the frame. It has been, at times, like a slap in the face that we have even had to go there.

While, on some levels, I understand that these attempts to erase us may be due to a strong desire to focus on issues like American gun control and attacks on the societal freedom for all, they are deeply offensive and dehumanising.

They do, however, speak to my growing realisation that despite how far we have come in terms of recognition, many people still ‘do not get it’. They have appeared incapable of an appreciation and empathy for what it feels like to live with, or have lived with, a deep sense of exclusion, invisibility, and fear of being subjected to hatred.

Have these people, while they are in positions of civic authority and privilege, taken the time to reflect and ask themselves some important questions: What does it feels like to grow up with an overwhelming secret? What does it mean to keep the truth hidden from those who you love most dearly, out of fear for your own safety or for not wanting those you love to be subjected to societal scorn?

Furthermore, have they reflected on what it might be like to be hyper-sensitive to your physicality, your voice tone, the full breadth of your emotional responses, at every point of your external engagement?

Indeed, have they considered what it means to have to adapt or hide all of those very things that make you human, out of a very deep, and very rational, fear?

Safety and freedom of expression around who you are, and who you love, are taken for granted by most. So it makes sense that some have not asked themselves these questions. If they had, LGBTI people would not continue to face the extraordinary struggles that we continue to face around the world, including here in Australia.

Strength, visibility, vigilance and striving for empathy remains as important as ever, no matter how far we think we have come.

Nicolas Parkhill is the CEO of ACON.

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