Orlando: Not the First, Not the Last

To help the survivors and the families of the victims, please look here: https://www.oneorlando.org/ and https://www.gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund

On Sunday, June 12, 2016, 49 people were murdered. Another 53 were injured. The majority were LGBTQ Latinx people celebrating Latinx night at Pulse Nightclub. During Pride month. These people were targeted specifically, with the location having been scouted by the shooter. According to patrons, the shooter was also seen several times at the club and known for getting drunk and angry. He was also known for extreme racism and homophobia. This means the shooter knew that night there would be a large gathering of QPoC. This is not the first or the last time queer people (usually of color) have been targeted.

Before Orlando there was:

Compton Cafeteria Riots in San Francisco in August 1966.

Stonewall Police Raid in New York City on June 27-28, 1969.

The UpStairs Lounge Fire in New Orleans on June 24, 1973. 32 dead.

AIDS Crisis from the 1980s to 1990s. Thousands dead.

Otherside Lounge in Atlanta in February 1997.  5 injured.

Backstreet Café in Roanoke in September 2000. 1 dead. 7 injured.

Neighbors in Seattle on December 31, 2013. None injured.

These are only a handful of incidents. There have been more and continue to be more. 1 in 5 LGBTQ people will be the victim of a hate crime of some sort. The majority of these people will be QPoC, especially trans women of color. The same world that fostered people like the Orlando shooter continues to function and will continue to function as it has after Stonewall, after the UpStairs Lounge Fire, after the AIDS crisis, so on and so forth. Small steps have been made but the United States still works on a system of racism and queerphobia that criminalizes queer bodies, especially if they are black or brown. 20-40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. 41% of transgender people have attempted suicide. Laws are attempting to be passed all across the country that bar transgender people from using the restrooms that they feel comfortable in. 80% of the LGBTQ people killed are racial/ethnic minorities.

Orlando will happen again. It continues to happen every day in smaller scales. We lose LGBTQ people to suicide, depression, addiction. We lose them to hate crimes. We lose them to fear and self-loathing. We lose LGBTQ people every day but it takes us to be murdered en masse to be recognized for the problematic culture that breeds people like the Orlando shooter. Yet people like Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Pat McCrory, Phil Bryant, Bill Haslam and so many more have power to enact laws that further criminalize the basic existence of LGBTQ people. There are over 100+ anti-LGBTQ laws being passed or attempting to be passed right now.

Orlando will happen again. Just like Islan Nettle wasn’t the first or the last. Just like Leelah Acorn wasn’t the first or the last. Just like Brandon Teena wasn’t the first or the last. Just like Mercedes Successful, Reecey Walker, Keyonna Blakeney, Shantee Isacc, and the other 10 trans people killed alone this year, these 49 individuals, killed out of hate, will not be the last.

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old

Amanda Alvear, 25 years old

Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old

Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old

Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old

Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old

Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old

Cory James Connell, 21 years old

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old

Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old

Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old

Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old

Frank Hernandez, 27 years old

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old

Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old

Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old

Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old

Kimberly Morris, 37 years old

Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old

Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old

Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old

Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old

Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old

Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old

Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old

Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old

Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old

Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old

Nearly half the victims were Puerto Rican. Some of them were undocumented people. The liberation of LGBTQ people is not separate of the liberation of people of color. These liberations are intertwined as the liberation of the LGBTQ community hinders on the liberation of PoC from the prison-industrial complex (which targets QPoC harshly), systematic racism, poverty, deportation, detention, and even the racism inside the LGBTQ community itself. Together, not separate. Our struggles have been intertwined from the beginning, from the first bricks at Stonewall being thrown by trans women of color to this very tragedy which targeted QPoC on a night of celebration of race AND their gender/sexuality. To remove race from this fight is to erase history, to erase our own community, erase our most vulnerable.

Unless the current culture and climate towards LGBTQ people, people of color, and systematic oppression as a whole changes, Orlando will happen again. It will continue to happen in every queer suicide, every child kicked from home, every child who leaves school, every queer person of color thrown into the prison-industrial complex. Orlando is not a single event nor a culmination of a single person. It’s the result of a society and environment with a gun fetish that hates queer people, especially queer people of color. Orlando will happen again unless you begin to stop it. Call out those making homophobic remarks. Lobby against anti-LGBTQ bills. Confront those using gay slurs. It is the moments of silence in these times that culminate into the society that devalues queer life.

And yet, despite these tragedies and this environment, as a community, LGBTQ people remain resilient. We live openly for ourselves and those that cannot. We still have Pride. We still live and we still love. We express ourselves in the very face of a nation and a people who spit in our faces. LGBTQ people are some of the strongest people for simply existing because we have to be. Every single LGBTQ person is strong for existing in this world, whether they are open or not. It takes strength to be open and it takes strength to hold to burden of being silent. Regardless, every single LGBTQ person is worthy of life, love and happiness regardless if the country believes you do or not.

If you are scared, you have every right to be. There are people who are here for you. You are not alone. None of us are alone.

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