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What Queer Latinos Are Saying About The Orlando Shooting


Mourners hold up signs during a vigil in Washington, D.C. in reaction to the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds, AFP/Getty Images
Mourners hold up signs during a vigil in Washington, D.C. in reaction to the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

In the wake of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando that left at least 49 people dead and more than 50 wounded, queer Latino folks around the country are reflecting on the horror of the attack.

Many are speaking up about what clubs like Pulse, the site of the shooting, mean for queer and Latino communities. Others warn against the temptation to blame Islam for the violence, pointing out that there are many Latino Muslims. (The Pew Research Center estimates that Latinos make up four percent of the 3.3 million Muslims in America.)

We rounded up some of the sharpest, most poignant reactions to Sunday's mass shooting — the deadliest in American history.

Over at Colorlines, writer Mirian Zoila Pérez says places like Pulse, where queer people of color can gather and feel comfortable, are exceedingly rare. In her essay, titled "When the One Place That Feels Like Home is Invaded," Pérez writes about what happens when tragedy crashes into a "rare moment of queer joy and Latino belonging":

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When bars, clubs, restaurants, swimming pools, parks, theaters, buses and subways, streets and sidewalks aren't for you, you hold on for dear life to the spaces that are. Only a few times a year do we claim enough space to unapologetically play our people's music, dance to the rhythms of our childhoods, and be in a space where all of our identities are seen ... Being queer and Latinx in the U.S. sometimes feels like it can be impossible to find our people. And now tragedy has found us.

In an essay for Bustle, Mariella Mosthof reflects on how this type of violence can end up affirming straight anxieties over queerness. She says parents can reject their queer children "from a place of their own fear, or their own desire for you to be safe," and the conviction that "the easiest way for you to be safe is for you to be 'normal.'" Here's more from Mosthof:

"The worst part of an event like this for someone like me is that it 'justifies' my mother's rejection of me. She was fearful that something very much like this would happen to me if I chose to live queerly, and her response was to try and crush it out of me in any way she could. When she couldn't accomplish that, she simply withdrew from me to mitigate her own risk of loss and suffering as a parent. Of course, that only drove me to seek out my chosen queer family with even greater urgency. Now, I am reminded once again that I am very much in the danger that she feared."

At Philadelphia Magazine, writer Sabrina Vourvoulias says the shooting should be viewed against the backdrop of anti-queer and racist sentiments that have been a hallmark of this presidential election, calling the gun debate only a "partial answer" to the issues the shooting has raised:

This was a slaughter of LGBTQIA folks, many of them Latinos and people of color, during Pride month. We cannot, and should not, hide from these facts.

It seems no coincidence that this massacre takes place as the nation engages in an increasingly vitriolic argument about gender-neutral bathrooms which portrays trans people as predators; or during an electoral season in which one of the presidential candidates has shamelessly characterized Latinos as rapists and criminals. In fact, expressions of hate toward these two (overlapping) groups have become so normalized they're commonplace in tweets, Facebook posts and elementary school bully refrains.

Vourvoulias also quotes Louie A. Ortiz-Fonseca, founder of a storytelling project on Latino and Afro-Latino gay, queer and trans men known as The Gran Varones, on the role of dancing in the lives of both Latinos and queer folks:

We find community and sanctuary on the dance floor. As Latino gay men, we teach ourselves to break tradition so that we can take the hand of another man and dance. We do this to keep traditional. This alone continues to provide us space, even if the spaces are borrowed, for us to be and feel safe. This massacre was another reminder that we can be robbed of these spaces, robbed of our humanity and our lives.

Over at Fusion, Alan Pelaez Lopez, who identifies as an Afro-Latino gender-non-conforming immigrant, writes, "We are not all Orlando," referring to the ways in that different layers of identity can complicate one's reaction to Sunday's shooting:

As a Black body in Mexico, my worth and value as a human being has always been questioned. I cannot detach my Blackness, my femininity, my queerness, or my mental health from an analysis on what happened in Orlando.

Sunday's shooting cannot be blamed solely on Omar Mateen. In fact — and this is the critical, and risky part — we have to hold each other accountable in the ways in which we may participate in the oppression of people of color, the oppression of the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual +) community, the oppression of religious communities, and more.

We have to push the media and understand that blaming the Muslim community is perpetuating the fact that xenophobia teaches us to only celebrate and empathize with white immigrants.

In fact, we need to remember that Latinidad is a diverse culture and that many Latinxs are also Muslim — we cannot talk about them as separate identities.

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