Orlando shooting reminds Nova Scotia gay community of vulnerability

In the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, members of Nova Scotia's gay community say they are feeling the fear but also need to look at the root of homophobia.

Halifax pride events not expected to change markedly as a result of the attacks

Adam Reid (left) and Scott Jones said the shooting in Orlando brought up a lot of emotion. (Carsten Knox/CBC)

In the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, members of Nova Scotia's gay community say they are feeling fearful but also say there's a need to look at the root of homophobia.

Forty-nine people were killed and another 53 were injured at a nightclub, that is a fixture in the LGBTQ community.

"It's brought up a lot of emotion," gay rights activist Scott Jones told CBC's Mainstreet.

"It brings up a lot of unresolved emotion in terms of who we are in society and the way that society looks at us, and supports us, or not."

In 2013, Jones was leaving a bar in New Glasgow when he was stabbed by another patron.

Attack left him paralyzed

In court, his assailant Shane Matheson said he didn't know why he did it, but Jones and his friends say they are convinced it's because Jones is gay. The attack left him paralyzed from the waist down.

"My story is different than this in its scale. I was hopeful that after I was attacked, the conversation was happening, but then it died down," Jones said.

Jones runs a campaign called Don't Be Afraid to combat homophobia. He sees how an event like this stirs up fear across the gay community and beyond. 

"Radical Islam is being blamed by people who don't want to acknowledge that gay people exist, and that we have rights" he said.

'We are all responsible here'

"It's really easy to throw around fear instead of looking at the root of the problem, which is that we're all responsible here. We all need to be having a conversation about this, every day, forever."

Adam Reid is an organizer with Halifax Pride, which takes place next month. He sees these acts of hate and violence against the LGBTQ community as a reminder of the community's vulnerability, even at a time when gay rights are enshrined in Canadian law. 

"I don't think there's anyone in the community who doesn't feel a sense of fear," he said.

"I also know that I'm a cisgender, white male. I'm tall, and I have a certain amount of privilege in those ridiculous,superficial [ways] that give an ability to feel less fear."

"I know other members of the community who don't have that option ... people in the trans community, people of colour, who are frequently under attack, with a much higher level of violence committed against them."

Faces homophobia on a regular basis

Reid said homophobia is something he deals with on a regular basis in Halifax.

"Just today I was walking on the street and someone shouted a slur at me," he says."I think it's because I look different, other. I don't know what it was. This is a very small act, but it's the kind of hate that exists everywhere." 

Jones said in the United States, openly homophobic and transphobic politicians are helping support the hatred.  

Protest vs. celebration

Reid said he doesn't expect this year's pride festival to change markedly as a result of the attacks, but it will change the way people engage with the festival. 

"Every year there's a conversation about celebration versus protest at pride," he said.

"I think the two can live hand in hand. One of the ways we do fight fear is by doing that which we are called to at pride, whether it's dancing and celebrating, holding hands and showing love, or going to the lecture and spreading the word of protest and resistance that we need to continue to discuss."