Pulse, and a Legacy of LGBTQ Resilience

Living as a LGBT person of color in New York City, I would walk with my eyes open, my hands out of my pockets, and alert. Crossing 2nd Avenue, I would not let my guard down until I entered a space that was ours, a local watering hole called Boiler Room. An exhale after I arrived. I once again felt safe, often safer than I’d felt at home.

 

I imagine that many who arrived at Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016 felt the same way, never expecting their safe space to devolve into one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history. That night, 49 bright, promising lives were cut tragically short.

 

Not only do I feel the profound loss of so many lives, but also for the loss of the security that many in the LGBT community feel in the special places where we gather. As history has shown, violence in LGBT safe harbors is not an isolated incident but part of a legacy of harm.

 

For example, nearly 45 years ago to the day, arson at the Upstairs Lounge gay bar in New Orleans killed 32. Metropolitan Community Church assistant pastor George Mitchell managed to escape the second-floor lounge, only to re-enter the blaze trying to save his boyfriend, Louis Broussard. Firefighters eventually found their remains, clutched in an embrace.

 

The Pulse shooting laid bare the harsh reality that our community is a still a target. The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department estimated that roughly 40 percent of hate crimes in 2017 were motivated by sexual orientation and gender expression, and the rate has been increasing each year. Gay men I know personally were attacked mere months ago, right outside of a place where the LGBT community is supposed to feel safe.

 

We can start dismantling the attacks our community faces by following the example of those who advanced our cause a generation ago: project resilience by joining together as a community, actively seeking out the support of allies, and collectively empowering each other through organized advocacy. America – and indeed the world – are safer for us now because of what those who came before us had the courage to do. Our generation must now work to solidify hard-fought gains if we want to leave it a better place for those who come after us.

 

 

 

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Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Congressional Staff Association