Irish activist Panti Bliss headlined ILGA-Europe’s Equality Gala in Brussels where she delivered a speech full of humor, heart, and sobering truths about homophobia and Orlando.
Introduced as “the Queen of Ireland,” Bliss discusses the amount of work that still needs to be done around the world. “Marriage equality didn’t protect 49 members of our community in Orlando,” she says.
Bliss points out this work becomes especially obvious when leaving one’s “protected bubble.”
“I think often for many of us, especially standing here in the heart of socially liberal Europe and especially of us that come from socially liberal cities, it can be really 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 it’s there until we walk into its edges and we realize actually how small it is…
Orlando, Florida is firmly inside our bubble.”
Bliss, who’s been vocal about calling out homophobia and proudly proclaims that she’s faced legal action in the past for doing so, emphasizes the importance of the term as a means of placing responsibility.
“Until [George Weinberg] coined the word homophobia, we only had language that put the blame on LGBTI people for their own oppression and not on their oppressors. And it was a very controversial word then, and it remains a very controversial word today.
And we saw that in the days and weeks after Orlando when news outlets and politicians and others shied away from using the word homophobia to describe that attack…’We’ are not all Orlando, but we are.”
The activist also discussed how the attack on Orlando felt very personal to the LGBTQ community despite being in different parts of the world because of the shared experience of “being outside the protective bubble” and “awkwardly, and sometimes frighteningly different.”