KNPR

Las Vegas LGBTQ Leaders Weigh In On Orlando

orlando_memorial.jpg

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A memorial in Orlando for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

The day after the shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, the Las Vegas LGBTQ community – and the politicians who ally with them – showed up en masse to the LGBTQ Center downtown.

The place was so packed, late comers couldn’t get past the lobby and an extra microphone had to be set up so everyone could hear the parade of speakers.

Most of what Southern Nevada political and gay community leaders wanted to talk about was a way to end gun violence. That was also what most of the people attending wanted to hear.

A recent Washington Post article posited that the gay rights movement could take on the National Rifle Association and actually win in a way that other organizations have been unable to do. 

The CEO of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada Michael Dimengo told KNPR's State of Nevada that he agrees with the article. 

"I do see the possibility that the gun control debate will change and can change," he said, "I think in our community there is a sense of anger that I'm seeing from the local community. There is a sense of sadness. There is a sense of activism."

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Dimengo said he is hearing the same thing from other CEOs at other gay and lesbian centers around the country.

Charlotte Morgan is a paster at Indigo Valley Church in Las Vegas. She said it is time for the gay community to "work together with the oneness that we have" to help with gun control.

Morgan likened the feeling to the Act Up movement during the AIDS crisis of the 80s, where activists demanded action on funding for AIDS/HIV research. 

However, the tragedy in Orlando has a lot more layers to it than just the debate over gun control. One aspect about the shooting was the feeling that the gunman had violated a space that has long been considered safe for LGBTQ people.

Morgan said letting people know that there is a safe place for them is part of her mission going forward.

"Because I know there was an image of a shattered sanctuary space being a bar," she said, "That's where you went to be yourself to be with your partner, to be with your friends and feel safe."

Dimengo said that at one time gay bars were the only safe places for people in the gay community to be. The Center grew out of that tradition. 

"Today the community centers that you see are an evolution of our movement and people gathering together for safety, for community, for coming together to be activists, to be out and proud." he said.

Besides the feeling that a traditional sanctuary was violated in such an awful way, the revelation that the Orlando gunman had going to the nightclub since at least 2007 undoubtedly led to quite a few discussions between gay people and their straight friends and families about exactly what homophobia is, and how self-hatred sometimes manifests in violence.

Dimengo said he understands that internal struggle. He was a Catholic priest for 22 years before he came out and left the church. 

"When you talk about internal homophobia, you're talking about an internal struggle," he said, "I think ever authentic LGBTQ person can identify that struggle." 

Dimengo believes the way forward now is to help the community heal and to find ways to advocate around the cause going forward. 

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