The Battle for Love Continues: One Year Since the Orlando Massacre

“We Loved with a Love that was more than Love.” -Edgar Allan Poe

The month of June for the LGBTQIA community is celebrated as its official Pride month. Throughout June Pride parades and festivities are held throughout the world to laud the Love within the community. Among all the merriment and “gayity”, however, we now spend a day of mourning during this month. One year ago, a hatred fueled by cowardice, resentment, and judgment claimed the lives of 49 innocent people, wounding 58 others, in a bloody massacre in Orlando. Earlier this week, I attended a vigil to mark the anniversary of this brutal act of terror. One of the speakers referred to the attack as a massacre, with absolute validity, and I began thinking to myself that this was the first time I heard the attack on Pulse Night Club described as a massacre. It’s amazing what the power of a word can do to make such a horrid event even more real in our eyes.

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The word itself feels wicked on the tongue. It’s evil, dirty, violent, grotesque. All of these words are perfectly applicable to describe the nefarious attack on the 49 victims who were gunned down by a man whose name I refuse to use, whose effigy I decline to memorialize, and whose sad life I renounce. Upon hearing that night described as a massacre, the horrors, fear, trepidation, and overwhelming sadness the victims and club inhabitants must have experienced that night began to play in my mind.

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I imagined how, with excited anticipation, they must have planned their outfits for the evening, had dinner with friends beforehand, consumed their favourite cocktails, danced to their favourite tunes, all the while never knowing this would be the last thing they wear, the last time they take a selfie with their friends and partners, the last song they’d ever hear. The only reasoning being, for a brief moment in time, an act of hate triumphed over an act of Love. The three hours and twelve minutes during which time the terrorist invaded a safe space for Love and acceptance must have seemed an eternity for those inside.

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As the vigil progressed, the names and ages of the victims were read, again making me realize how a majority of them were around my age, most of them no more than ten years my senior. Their lives were cut short, not because they were criminals, not because they were fatally ill, not because of some freak accident. Their lives were cut short because they chose to Love in a world that is simply too full of hatred.

Throughout the vigil, the necessity to stand united without our own marginalized society was brought to the forefront again and again. Within the LGTBQIA community, there exists a degrading presence of “preferences” ranging from systemic racism, to no femmes/trans, to weight and age discrimination and the gamut between. A community who has, for decades, felt the backlash of marginalization, ostracism, and hatred should be the last to divide and segregate members of its own community.

In recent years America, among many other Western countries and, most recently Taiwan- an amazing stride for the Eastern world- have made significant progress to recognizing and validating the rights of the LGTBQIA community. As of today, roughly 25 countries fully or partially recognize same-sex marriage while an additional eighteen recognize same-sex civil unions. I remember waking one June morning in 2015 to sheer ecstasy when my own country finally declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states, something of which prompted me to began my coming out journey that very day.

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At the same time, distinctive political agendas have sought to roll back the rights we’ve fought so hard to earn. In my new home state, a special legislative session has been called next month to vote on a bill targeted at trans men and women and their access to using public restrooms that correspond with their gender identity. According to information released by the Human Rights Campaign, last year 22 transgender people were murdered by acquaintances, friends, partners, and even strangers who could not accept these individuals for who they truly are. Lamentably, 2017 has thus far seen an additional 12 transgender people murdered for the same reason. No microcommunity is feeling the threat more than transgender women of color, with seven of the twelve slain victims in 2017 fitting this category.

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Richard & Mildred Loving, the face of anti-miscegenation discrimination in the 1960s

Earlier this week, we also celebrated the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriage in the United States, and would continue the battle of a constitutional right to marital privacy. In reading some of the comments on a New York Times article written about the anniversary, many people were amazed that its only been 50 years since two people of a separate race could consummate their Love through marriage. Still others were stating that 50 years from now, it is hopeful that people will view same-sex marriage in the same light. This too is my wish, although it would be wonderful if it happened much quicker.

As we reflect on the battles lost, the battles won, and the battles still to come, as we resonate on historic events like the Loving case, the Stonewall movement, the defeat of Proposition 8 and the subsequent repeal of DOMA and legalization of same-sex marriage in America, and sadly events like the assassination of Harvey Milk and the massacre that occurred last year in Orlando, I bookend the same way in which I begin- with a quote. Oscar Wilde, whom was tried and imprisoned for his Love urges us all to “Keep love in your heart. A life without love is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.”

Below are the names and ages of the 49 victims from the Orlando Pulse Nightclub Shooting as well as the 12 transgender individuals murdered this year. Please spare a moment to remember these brave men and women who have served as soldiers in the Battle for Love.

Orlando Soldiers: 

  • Stanley Almodovar III, age 23
  • Amanda Alvear, 25
  • Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26
  • Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
  • Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
  • Martin Benitez Torres, 33
  • Antonio D. Brown, 30
  • Darryl R. Burt II, 29
  • Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24
  • Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
  • Simon A. Carrillo Fernandez, 31
  • Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
  • Luis D. Conde, 39
  • Cory J. Connell, 21
  • Tevin E. Crosby, 25
  • Franky J. Dejesus Velazquez, 50
  • Deonka D. Drayton, 32
  • Mercedez M. Flores, 26
  • Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
  • Juan R. Guerrero, 22
  • Paul T. Henry, 41
  • Frank Hernandez, 27
  • Miguel A. Honorato, 30
  • Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
  • Jason B. Josaphat, 19
  • Eddie J. Justice, 30
  • Anthony L. Laureano Disla, 25
  • Christopher A. Leinonen, 32
  • Brenda L. Marquez McCool, 49
  • Jean C. Mendez Perez, 35
  • Akyra Monet Murray, 18
  • Kimberly Morris, 37
  • Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez, 27
  • Luis O. Ocasio-Capo, 20
  • Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
  • Eric I. Ortiz-Rivera, 36
  • Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
  • Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
  • Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
  • Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
  • Christopher J. Sanfeliz, 24
  • Xavier E. Serrano Rosado, 35
  • Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25
  • Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
  • Shane E. Tomlinson, 33
  • Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
  • Luis S. Vielma, 22
  • Luis D. Wilson-Leon, 37
  • Jerald A. Wright, 31
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The 49 Faces from the Battle for Love

Transgender Soldiers:

  • Kenneth Bostik, 59
  • Mesha Caldwell, 41
  • Chyna Doll Dupree, 31
  • Sherrell Faulkner, 46
  • Jaquarrius Holland, 18
  • Ciara McElveen, 26
  • Kenne McFadden, 27
  • Chay Reed, 28
  • Tiara Richmond (Keke Collier), 24
  • JoJo Striker, 23
  • Alphonza Watson, 38
  • Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, 28

Nightclub Shooting Florida

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2 thoughts on “The Battle for Love Continues: One Year Since the Orlando Massacre

  1. So amazingly sad, I’m yet to go to a vigil just because I don’t like to ‘engage with the community’ in that sort of capacity. After all that has been happening recently though, I think you’re right and solidarity is important in an already self-marginalised community. Love the Oscar Wilde quote too 🙂

    Like

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