There are no words that I could string together into a sentence that could ease the pain and loss our community has felt this past week. Yes, our hearts are breaking but we have come together at vigils, mourned and continued to show strength in the face of one of the most heinous hate crimes we have witnessed in our lifetime. Then, even when put up against another group that the media and certain politicians have also deemed unlovable, we have held hands and stood together; for this, I am proud.
If you’re truly honest with yourself, you would know that this isn’t an isolated incident of hatred against our community. It is however, a shining light on the underbelly of homophobia that we are forced to pretend no longer exists.
Yes it is easier to find our strength in numbers and feel free to celebrate our identities during festivals globally created by us, for us. To remember those who have fought and continue to fight so hard to achieve our common goal of equality.
Yet, here we are still dreaming of a world that can stop confusing tolerance with acceptance. A world that encourages all LGBTQia people to be proud of who they are, every day. Not just when it is most convenient for the rest of society at Mardi Gras, drag shows, the Theatre and on runways at Fashion Week. Look, although I’m sure it is truly heartfelt, creating change is more than changing your Facebook profile picture, more than filling your newsfeed with Rainbows and more than clicking ‘like’ to send prayers to the families of those effected. I’m also well aware that it is much more than writing a blog but we all have to start somewhere.
So, to that young person sitting at home with your family watching the news and fearing for your safety, this is for you. To that person who is feeling alone, unsupported and silenced; this is for you. To those families who have been discriminated against and shown nothing but hatred in the face of your love; this is for you. To those children being sent off to gay conversion therapy, questioning why; this is for you. To those people too frightened to come out everywhere around the world; this is for you.
You may hear snickering throughout your life, it will try to pierce into the very core of you. Please remember you are brave, be a teacher. This is a lesson in combating ignorance and it’s up to us to be vigilant.
You may witness hatred and discrimination against yourself, someone you love or a complete stranger. This is a lesson in courage. Stand up for what you believe is right and put an end to the cycle of oppression. It starts with you.
You may feel as though you cannot bask in the happiness of your relationship in the same way you’ve seen others do it. Holding hands, stealing a kiss in the supermarket or holding each other tightly on a cold night at the train station. This is a lesson in bravery, you have every right to display your love without fear and without judgment.
You may be told that your family isn’t as real or important as a ‘regular’ family because it doesn’t look the same. This is a lesson in resilience. You know that you are raising compassionate, wonderful children and are giving them all the love that a family should give.
You may see the hurtful tweets, texts and media coverage that portrays your commitment as less than ‘traditional marriage’. This is a lesson in determination. Although you have nothing to prove, our equality is still in question whilst full marriage equality ceases to exist.
You may notice politicians and the people we assume are more powerful than us creating laws and perpetrating hatred throughout the media. This is a lesson in perspective. The thing they really don’t want us to believe is that we hold the power. We need to follow the correct channels and invest our time creating change for our future.
You may hear people pitting religious groups against us. This is a lesson in compassion. This isn’t about us vs. them. Our community knows too well how much harm vilifying our beliefs can do. We will achieve more when we communicate and stand tall together in the face of adversity.
To those parents, families, friends and allies supporting and loving us, we thank you. We appreciate your strength, tenacity and unconditional love. Trust me when I say, we see you standing beside us, being present with us in our fight every day. It is true that there is no place in our community for hatred or fear but we have plenty of love for you.
Let this serve as a reminder to everyone in our community and to anyone who thinks they can break us. Although they would have us believe that we are to continue on in fear, we can and will get through this together showing more love and compassion than anyone can handle.
To the victims of this horrific act of violence and their friends and families; we see you, we admire your courage and we won’t stop until the world finds equality, peace and pride.
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 Stanley Almodovar III, 23 Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 Luis S. Vielma, 22 K.J. Morris, 37 Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25 Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 Amanda Alvear, 25 Martin Benitez Torres, 33 Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25 Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 Cory James Connell, 21 Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 Luis Daniel Conde, 39 Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 Christopher “Drew” Leinonen, 32 Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 Frank Hernandez Escalante, 27 Paul Terrell Henry, 41 Akyra Monet Murray, 18 Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 Antonio Davon Brown, 29 Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25.