Last Saturday saw thousands celebrating LGBTQA+ pride at City Hall Plaza, despite spitting rain and a handful of wildly outnumbered protesters ordering the celebrators to repent and give up their sinful lifestyles. Rainbow balloon arches and colorful outfits outshined the gray day.
However, just a few hours later and 1,117 miles south, LGBTQA+ celebrations took a much darker turn.
This is what we know, according to NPR. A 29-year-old man named Omar Mateen opened fire at Pulse, a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., leaving 49 victims dead and 53 hospitalized. During his shooting spree, he called 911 to pledge his allegiance to the Islamic State group. Mateen’s father, Meddique Mir Mateen, told NBC News that a couple of months ago, Mateen was angered when he saw two men kissing, but there have also been reports that he may have been gay himself. He has been investigated by the FBI twice but was removed from its watchlist. Mateen was killed during an exchange of fire with police officers.
The shooting is currently being investigated as an act of terrorism. However, it would be irresponsible to ignore that Mateen chose to fire on a gay nightclub, and it would be irresponsible to ignore that he chose to do so on Latinx night. President Barack Obama called this shooting “an act of hate.” He was right do so.
Last Saturday, the LGBTQA+ community lost a safe space in the middle of Pride Month in the U.S. The community lost 49 of its members, with the death toll still showing potential to rise. The community lost a feeling of safety, and with it, some of its dignity.
Throughout their history, LGBTQA+ people have experienced what is known as collective trauma: Trauma that happens to large groups of individuals and can be transmitted transgenerationally and across communities. They have been forced into closets, kept from marrying one another, mocked, ridiculed and even murdered. On June 9, a black transgender woman, Goddess Diamond, became the 14th known transgender person killed in the U.S. this year, according to queer media site Autostraddle.
Despite the motives behind the attack, Mateen shot 102 people last weekend at Pulse. Nearly half of that number lost their lives, and several of those injured remain in intensive care. The LGBTQA+ community feels this loss everywhere. Mateen’s actions spoke clearly: Even in your self-proclaimed safe space, you are not welcome.
This year’s theme for the month of June is Solidarity Through Pride. We at The News voice our support for LGBTQA+ people in Orlando and across the nation. We are glad that Northeastern University President Joseph E. Aoun condemned the attack, and we encourage all those affected to seek support.
As we mourn and reflect, however, we also cannot ignore the fact that we must take action. The next few weeks and months will see a sharp rise in Islamophobia. We must stand with our Muslim peers who some, especially in the midst of the age of Donald J. Trump, will use as scapegoats. It is also worth noting that a man who was investigated by the FBI on multiple occasions was able to obtain a semi-automatic weapon. Even if he had access to a smaller weapon, like a pistol, the death toll would have been much lower.
As Pride Month reaches its halfway point, we hope that in the face of this tragedy, people across the U.S. will show their solidarity: At pride parades in their cities, in LGBTQA+ bars and cafes and nightclubs, on the streets each day. We hope that safe spaces and support networks continue to be built for LGBTQA+ people. As we come out of this, we hope that we can still be proud of our heritage and our country.
Photo courtesy Fibonacci Blue, Creative Commons