Community: Our tribute to Orlando

If you were at the vigil for Orlando on Old Compton Street, you’ll understand us when we say it was one of the most moving experiences of our lives.


Thousands of people descended on Soho on Monday night, in the biggest tribute so far to the atrocities against the LGBT community in Orlando.

Fittingly, crowds centred around The Admiral Duncan, the scene of a homophobic bombing in 1999.

Scores of gay men, lesbians, transgender people, genderqueer people, drag queens and straight people were out in force to show solidarity with the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

People were hugging, crying and holding rainbow flags and banners saying “Love will always win against LGBT hate” and “London stands united with Orlando against terrorism.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan was in attendence, as well as Jeremy Corbyn, activist Peter Tatchell and face of Channel 4 Jon Snow. There were also scores of familiar faces from the London gay scene, including the beautiful Son Of A Tutu who acted as the event’s unofficial usher, conducting the crowds with modesty and grace.

At 7.05pm, a wave of silence spread through the streets for over two minutes as the dead were remembered. It culminated with a heartwarming gesture of love when balloons were released and the crowd let out a roar of hope and freedom, and the London Gay Men’s Choir burst into song.

Well done London! We’ve done ourselves, and hopefully Orlando, proud.



What happened in Orlando over the weekend marks a grisly point in LGBT history. It is a physical, merciless attack on our way of life and the values and freedoms we treasure most. When America’s biggest terror attack since 9/11 is targeted at such a close-knit, comparatively small group of people, it carries unignorable significance. The fact that it was during the Pride season hurts all the more, making us feel scared and powerless at a point when we should be feeling our strongest and proudest.

It is important to note that the UK mainstream press has been hugely incompetent on its coverage of the events. On Sunday night, writer Owen Jones quite rightly walked out of a Sky News interview when a fellow guest and one of the presenters interviewing him implied that the attack was not homophobic. He pointed out that if the attack had been on a synagogue, it would unquestionably have been treated as anti-Semitic. Sky News and the presenter involved have come under fire from gay rights groups and the general public.

The BBC have also been vastly criticised for their failure to cover the events, showing hours of footage of the Queen’s birthday celebrations, rather than covering one of the biggest terrorist attacks of the century.

It emerged this morning too that The Daily Mail failed to report it at all, instead advertising a pair of pearl earrings and a picture pull-out of the Queen’s birthday, with not a word about the attacks.

Obviously questions have been raised as to the motives and reasoning behind this lack of reporting. Many are saying that such apathetic responses show that, despite appearances to the contrary, a lot of people in high places still don’t care what happens to our community. As well as remembering the events in Orlando, we need to remember this, and consider what it implies.

The horror that unfolded on Sunday morning at Pulse in Orlando shows that homophobia is still very real, and it’s right on our doorstep. Acrid, senseless hatred still exists, and it can slither directly into the heart of our community and sink its poisonous fangs into our necks.

It would be easy to feel beaten, hopeless or defeated. To just keep our heads down and stay safe. It would also be easy to ignore it. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could just turn up the volume on our Ab Fab boxsets, pour another gin and tonic, and pretend none of it had happened. But that’s just not good enough. We can no longer sit in our living rooms and do nothing. Patsy certainly wouldn’t stand for it, that’s for sure. She’d be storming down Old Compton Street, shouting “PISS OFF!” and brandishing a bottle of Bollinger.

That said, we should also try not to react with anger. Anger will hurt no-one but ourselves. The way to respond is not with aggression, or hatred towards other minorities, but with love. The aim of attacks like this is to make us blind with rage, and to divide us in our views. We need to resist that and stick together, with each other and with our allies of all backgrounds, sexualities and religions.

We need to stay grounded, stay logical and above all, stay proud. Wear what we want, go where we want, hold hands with who we want. This summer, our Pride celebrations here in London and across the world should be more euphoric, glittering and defiant than ever. Extremists like the Orlando attacker Omar Mateen are lonely, lost people. Let’s show them how great it is to be colourful, joyful and free.



Gary Henshaw
Owner, KU Bar

The atmosphere at the vigil on Monday was one of pure and organic unity. Soho, and all that joined, felt every emotion possible; from the heartbreak of the Orlando attack, to respect for the victims, and yet a wave of absolute pride and solidarity for standing as one, as an LGBT community and showing Pride. There were tears, cheers, and pure love.

In light of the attack at Orlando’s Pulse club, it was critical to show a community that will not stand down to terror or hate, that we will continue to fight for equal rights, continue to stand for what we believe, continue to be proud of who we are, and who we love. This vigil showed the London LGBT community at its best; united as one against hate.

More than ever, recent events highlight the need for legal and social equality. The need for education and the need for events like Pride.


Jeremy Joseph
Owner, G-A-Y

From 6pm onwards on Monday night you could feel a sense of coming together. As Old Compton Street got busier & busier, the atmosphere became more and more emotional. Seeing thousands coming together became the true definition of community.

The vigil was important for several reasons. The attack on Pulse wasn’t just an attack on Orlando, it was an attack on every LGBT venue in the world. We needed to show solidarity with the LGBT community in Orlando. It was important for people to have somewhere to come together.

I think what has happened humanises us. Some religious leaders have spoken against this attack, who before may not have been supporters of the LGBT community. We are seen now as a community, especially in the way we’ve all come together. This attack has strengthened our place in the world. Much of the news coverage has been so positive, and it shows how important events like Pride are. This year’s London pride will hopefully be a day where we come together as a community. Let’s not make it a day of just partying but also a day of solidarity.


Bisi Alimi

The vigil was really moving for me. I felt so overwhelmed and empowered. I saw the huge crowd and felt so proud to be part of such an amazing community. It is important to remember that the Soho nail bombing happened on Old Compton Street in 1999. So to be back there to stand in solidarity with LGBT people, not just in Orlando, but across the world, was just awesome. I think we sent a very strong message out yesterday that hate crime will not define us and we will not be scared by it. Any LGBT person who has been afraid, in the closet or in doubt, would have seen yesterday and felt really proud.


Munroe Bergdorf

Model & DJ

The atmosphere was incredible, thick with love and solidarity.

It’s unfortunate that it sometimes takes situations like this for our community to really pull together and realise we’re all in it together. The Orlando shooting shows us why Pride is important. We have rights and laws to protect us, but homphobia, transphobia and biphobia still exist in the world on a grand scale. We need pride to show the world that even in the face of such adversity and hate, we have love and each other. Our community is powerful, colourful and built on love.


Chris Godfrey
Assistant Editor of Attitude Magazine

There’s been a lot of in-fighting within the UK’s LGBT community over the last few years, a mark of complacency perhaps. People forget that actually there’s still a very real threat to us – even in countries with relatively progressively attitudes. There are factions in society that will never accept us, there are people who quite literally want us dead. Monday night was a bittersweet reminder that we are much, much stronger when we stand together, that we’re united in our differences.


Vanity Von Glow

The atmosphere began as one of solemn contemplation but once the silence had been observed and London Gay Men’s Chorus began to sing, it became one of reassurance and ultimately of hope, pride and confidence that against any odds, love wins.

It is vitally important for our community to show solidarity when under attack. Not just as a show of strength but to send a message to those less well protected that we are aware, that we are listening, that we do care, and that we want to help. Love must be expressed.

The LGBT community is a nation without borders. Social media now allows us to be closer than ever to our community, not just locally but globally. Because of this we see up close how much still needs to be done. Across the world we must change not only laws to protect gay people, but also the hearts and minds of the people who despise us. What Monday night’s vigil has proven is that we’re as prepared as ever to undertake this important work.



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