The area of Dundas and Rectory was filled with emotional chatter, laughter, hugs and bright colors as hundreds of Londoners gathered at Aeolian Hall Tuesday night.
Members and allies of the LGTBQ community came together to mourn the 49 people who were shot and killed, at an Orlando nightclub, in the early hours of June 12th.
Rev. Karen Low of the United Church of Canada, Rev. Bruce Lee of the Metropolitan Community Church and Deputy Mayor Paul Hubert were just a few people who addressed the audience, before Pride’s Mens Chorus took the stage.
London resident Andrew Rosser helped bring the event together and says he was amazed at the support and turnout, “we’re very fortunate in London to have a super supportive community. When we reached out to MCC to do the service and Karen Low of the United Church of Canada, they jumped on the chance to do it and said, what else do you need?”
The Hall quickly reached capacity, leaving a large crowd gathered in the parking lot to watch the vigil via video stream. London Police monitored the event, to ensure the safety of all those involved.
“We’re super happy that all the groups have come together. Our city council, the police service – anything we needed for tonight, they have come together and helped us with,” Rosser added.
Though the service started at 7:30 p.m., there was a line gathered out front as early 6 o’clock. Ashley Holata was among that line up and says, “I was expressing to my roommate that I was afraid to go Toronto Pride because you never know if someones going to do the same thing there. It’s a huge event like L.A. Pride, or anywhere else. Anywhere can be a target at this point.”
She adds that big cities aren’t the only places people may feel targeted, “I can’t even go to gay bar anymore, without there being an abundance of heterosexuals, and a lot of them are men. So for me, I don’t feel comfortable going there anymore, because I can’t be myself without being sexually harassed.”
She says though she hasn’t been a victim of intentional hate, a lot of straight men will make remarks in a joking manner, not realizing the way it may affect her or other lesbians.
Reports have recently surfaced that the gunman Omar Mateen, was a closet homosexual and had frequented Pulse Nightclub multiple times over the last few years. This comes after Mateen claimed to be doing the work of ISIS. Holata says this would actually make sense, as some people may struggle to balance faith and sexuality.
She says some of those who are closeted may also experience a level of self hate, “they tend to be more hateful. They’re just insecure with themselves so they take it out on others because they are uncomfortable with themselves.”
Despite these issues though, Holata does praise the support available in London for the LGBTQ community, especially for those who may be struggling to balance their sexuality with their faith, “there are churches around that accept LGBT community – there aren’t a lot of them – but there are some. There are groups around that people can talk to, where they feel welcome, like PFLAG and LGBT London Ontario. There’s a bunch of people you can talk to if you don’t feel safe talking to family and friends.”
Guest speakers took the opportunity to invite all members of the community to London Pride, which takes place on July 24th.