Guns, Minority LGBTQ Community Space, and Hate Crimes in the U.S: The Case of the Orlando Pulse Shooting

By: Michelle Estefania Cruz @funkysudaka

Another headline with the word” Mass Shooting” is being spread worldwide by the news of the tragic incident that has occurred in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida in the early hours of this Sunday. This gay nightclub was more than a nightclub for LGBTQ and Latinx audiences.

Movie theaters, schools, universities, malls, streets, all these public spaces have been subjected spaces of mass shooting more and more in the U.S.

The attack that occurred this weekend happened in the gay nightclub Pulse described as, “ Orlando’s Latin Hotspot.”

On record, this is quantified on paper into words as”the worst mass shooting slaughter in American history” as the New York Times reports. We can not quantify the aftermath this will have on those families, and the effects it will have on those who rushed to escape the shots being fired from one man and his assault rifle.

Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, a Latinx immigration and LGBTQ advocate who grew up in Florida responded to the story posting , “ Gay clubs are still a haven for people to be their full self. This club in particular used to be the place where people from rural communities in Central Florida used to go to find some freedom.This is a very difficult tragedy to cope.”

This was not just a venue for entertainment sake of those who frequented this nightclub. This was a community space that members of the LGBTQ and Latinx community had as a haven to be free. This freedom and the value of providing a community space for those whose freedom is ultimately just being themselves in public is the value these community spaces like Pulse Nightclub offers. Purpose these venues exists is for this freedom.

A dire necessity for minority LGBTQ in the U.S to have physical spaces for community. Just go to Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood in the northside and visit the streets of Belmont and Halsted and you will frequently see groups of young black queer teenagers hanging out on the corner outside of starbucks. Since there is no accessible physical space for them in their neighborhood , they come to Boystown, a gay-friendly and predominately upper white neighborhood to hang out on the streets to group together… which results in the Police harassing them to move.

Officials are investigating this Orlando shooting incident as a possible terrorist act. While there are speculations of the “possibility that the killer was an Islamist radical” the important lesson is to remember that true culprit of terror is to revoke freedom. In this tragic incident, it was the freedom for a community to be simply themselves- to be gay and be latinx.

This revoking of freedom through terrorist act isn’t just a byproduct of radical Islam. This is ultimately a byproduct of hatred. And this sense of hatred among fellow Americans is becoming more and more prevalent in American mainstream society and is now regurgitated as part of presidential platform speeches. We don’t have to look abroad or within radical Islam to see this hatred.

There are racists and homophobics all over the world. But within Industrialized first-economy societies, no one kills as much for their hatred than in the U.S. Nor is their any other country with the alarming rates of mass shootings.

As my Ecuadorian friend once said “ in Ecuador we have racism , but you don’t have people killing for it, they will not kill someone because they are black.”

In the U.S you do. You have the KKK and a long history of Jim Crow , lynching, and brutal attacks on minorities of color and LGBTQ.

This is extreme hatred. So before we have people be consumed with terrorists acts from radical Muslims, know that the church bombings of the southern Black churches and acts of hate are also acts of terrorism.

In this tragic incident, the victims were those enjoying themselves on a casual saturday night dancing and feeling this freedom of being publicly their “full self.” This sense of LGBTQ pride and this month of June in which we honor Gay Pride. But remember that gay pride or any pride of marginalized communities is an expression of freedom- the freedom to be themselves and have a community.

Another mass shooting, another U.S city. 50 lives cut short, at least another 53 wounded hundreds of people left traumatized after witnessing this event, another hundred more families reacting to the loss of their loved ones, and a community and nation grieving for once again another mass shooting.

There are racists and homophobic people all other the world. But as my Ecuadorian friend once said [ in Ecuador] people do not kill for it. And you dont see other Industralized societies with the horrific rate the U.S has on hate crimes and mass shootings.

U.S has a long history of Jim Crow violence and more more mass shooting.

Extreme hatred meets a society with the right to have guns- assault rifles for mass shooting, to be exact.

This are the ideals Trump is envoking. Whether or not the shooter is linked to some self-professed radical Islam group, this was an act of terrorism. Terrorism by its practice is to evoke fear, revoke freedom, and is built on hatred. And while we are at this whole hate thing, lets protect gun owners to buy rifles whose sole purpose is mass shootings. The same goes what other terrorists Timothy Mcveigh. Others have self-professed in the name of their religion- yes, self-proclaimed Christians.

Part of this article was used to reflect on the necessity of belonging and community among Latinx LGBTQ members for BeVisible, a community-focused career social network.

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