Later, it was revealed that this was a gay club, and finally, that the attack occurred during last call on Latin night. Reports indicated that the attacks were on the LGBT and Latin communities – minority communities that have encountered oppression. The attack reverberated across the LGBT and Latin communities, and across humanity as a whole.
Anecdotes included the slain 49-year-old mother who frequented Pulse in support of her young gay son. Another, was of the young survivor who recounted that she was held hostage in the bathroom by the shooter who chillingly said, he didn’t have anything against blacks, but later returned to shoot her and her friends. The attack was on young lives, on dreams, on a place that was home to many. This was a violation of the place locals frequented not just for entertainment, but also as a safe harbor. This was a sanctuary where they came to be themselves.
The media was abuzz with possible and conflicting motivations for the shooting. There was much speculation that the shooter was gay. Several patrons claimed they saw him sitting at Pulse at least a dozen times. His current wife said she accompanied him to both Pulse and Disney World, which led to speculation that the two were scoping them out as possible terror targets. Was his present wife a victim of the madman’s threatening behavior? The media questioned whether she would face charges as an accomplice.
His first wife recounted a marriage during which time he abused and isolated her for months, until her family rescued her from this dangerous situation. She stated she wasn’t surprised by the news that he might be gay. The shooter’s father insisted that his son was not gay, implying that would have been an occasion for family shame. News videos showed him calmly reporting that his son was shocked and agitated after seeing two men kissing in public. This seemed to give credence to gay-bashing members of the public as well as anti-gay political and religious leaders that the shooting was justified.
The shooter had attended a police academy, was fired from a former position as a state prison guard, and most recently worked as a security guard for a firm providing security to government, hospitals, and institutions. There, his outbursts caused a co-worker to leave, according to local news posts. He had previous training to use weapons. He had slipped twice through the FBI watch list.
Those in favor of common sense controls on gun acquisitions were appalled that the shooter was easily and legally able to purchase a Sig Sauer MCX and ammo. Later, he also attempted to buy body armor, but was refused. Those opposed to any gun restrictions stated that the man would not have slaughtered this group of innocent people had patrons in the club also been armed.
Sadly, data collected by the FBI shows that hate crimes against the LGBT community are reported to be at rates higher than any other minority community in the country. Some of our political and religious leaders continue to sanction laws that legalize discrimination, harassment, intimidation and violence against the LGBT community. It was only since 2010 that the existing US Federal hate crime law was expanded to include crimes motivated by a victims actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. Still, many hate crimes go unreported as LGBT victims of violence fear coming out, especially in states where they are unprotected and can be evicted from their home or fired from their job.
After experiencing the trauma of a scene that first responders described as “worse than a war zone,” some survivors were forced to come out. Florida is one of the states in which current laws put them at risk of being fired or evicted for being deemed gay.
Despite changes in society since the Stonewall Riots, the fight for protection and civil liberties for the LGBT community must continue on in light of the hatred and bigotry that still exists. Even in 2016, a major political party presidential candidate has condoned violence at his campaign rallies, and advocated the use of torture, expressed his admiration for multiple dictators. His running mate, who has a long history of blocking laws that would protect the LGBT community, campaigned against expanding the hate crime legislation to protection for LGBT.
The Orlando massacre has led to more awareness of the serious life-threatening circumstances that affect people of color, the LGBT, and other minority communities. The shared experience of fear for our personal safety creates a lasting trauma in our daily lives.
There is a feeling that we all must now be in this together. Despite the appearance of increased empathy, it is crucial to be hyper-vigilant and to understand that the marked and unmarked graves of those that have been slaughtered in the historical struggle for human rights must never be forgotten.