Commentary Human Rights

One Year After Pulse, Don’t You Dare Come for Any of Us

Rachel B. Tiven

We pledge to fight in the names of the 49 victims killed at the Pulse nightclub one year ago.

Cross-posted with permission from Lambda Legal.

“This is the first time I am writing as your CEO, and I wish it were about anything else.”

I wrote those words one year ago, on a Sunday morning, sitting in the hallway outside my son’s dance recital. Emails and text messages lit up my phone as I scoured for information, and conferred with my new colleagues about what had happened.

What emerged over the next few hours, days, and weeks was a horrific account and, in turn, a devastating reaction.

It was both the worst kind of hate that exists in this country, and the worst kind of targeting — of othering — that manifests when pawns are used to scapegoat those already condemned. When an excuse is made for intolerance.

Conservatives were eager to exploit the massacre for their anti-Muslim agenda — sometimes without even mentioning that most of the 49 victims killed at the Pulse nightclub were gay and queer and trans. But it was, and it is, important to name that they were LGBTQ, that most of them were Latinx and Afrolatinx LGBTQ people, and that over half were Puerto Rican.

To have a gay club — a safe space for LGBTQ people of color — invaded in such a heinous way was agonizing.

And then to have our grief colonized to facilitate a racist political agenda was beyond offensive.

“I felt sick… that our love and our lives and our pride could be an excuse for murder,” I wrote back then. “Sick that a presidential candidate encourages violent response to disagreement. Sick that intolerance — unchecked — means that even a night out dancing with friends can end in gunfire.”

What a year brings.

Little did any of us know that the “presidential candidate” in question would go on to actually become the 45th president of the United States. Little did we know just how much further harm would come in the months and year that followed. Little did we know that our pain would be harnessed in executive overreach, used as an excuse for bigotry.

I don’t blame Donald Trump for what the Pulse shooter (whose name is not even worth mentioning) did.

The shooter’s actions were a product of toxic masculinity and queerphobia mixed with access to military-grade weapons, as Charles M. Blow outlines in this New York Times piece. Donald Trump is a symptom of that, not the cause — though his popularity, reign, and hostility are all undoubtedly connected to it.

But I blame him for how he and his administration have co-opted our community’s pain to publicly justify their Islamophobia.

The language of the original Muslim ban said:

“[T]he United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.”

As if the Muslim ban did not come from an administration doing just that.

Donald Trump cannot pretend to abhor “violence against women” and the oppressors of “Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation” when he’s installed a cabinet full of people who hate us, has spent his energy attacking children and is dead-set on dismantling the most effective piece of legislation in the fight against the HIV and AIDS epidemic.

The Trump administration cannot feign regard for queers when — on the day of his inauguration — all mention of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people disappeared from the White House website, when we’re being erased from the 2020 census, and when the Department of Health and Human Services suddenly has no interest in addressing the needs of our community’s elders.

And how dare Trump and his administration deceive our country into believing that the federal government now has any interest in protecting Americans from racial oppression when it is targeting and exploiting people of color by increasing policing of Black and Latinx communities, vastly expanding the deportation machine, reversing course on decreasing use of private prisons, and reigniting the “war on drugs,” which will only serve to rip families and communities (disproportionately of color) apart.

And certainly not when Attorney General Jeff Sessions is attempting to rationalize his pursuit of mass incarceration by claiming credit for the prosecution of the man who murdered Mercedes Williamson, a trans teenage girl.

We will not be pitted against each other in the name of prejudice.

LGBTQ people are Black and disproportionately affected by police brutality.

LGBTQ people are Latinx and targeted for deportation.

LGBTQ people are Muslim and vilified by Trump and his Muslim ban.

And those of us who aren’t must recognize that our siblings need our solidarity.

LGBTQ people will stand against hate crimes and police misconduct against Black communities.

LGBTQ people will stand against hate crimes and walls and raids against Latinx communities.

LGBTQ people will stand against hate crimes and violence against Muslim communities.

Today and every day, we honor Stanley Almodóvar III. We honor Amanda L. Alvear. We honor Oscar A. Aracena Montero. We honor Rodolfo Ayala Ayala. We honor Antonio Davon Brown. We honor Darryl Roman Burt II. We honor Angel L. Candelario-Padró. We honor Juan Chavez Martinez. We honor Luis Daniel Conde. We honor Cory James Connell. We honor Tevin Eugene Crosby. We honor Deonka Deidra Drayton. We honor Simón Adrian Carrillo Fernández. We honor Leroy Valentín Fernández. We honor Mercedez Marisol Flores. We honor Peter Ommy González Cruz. We honor Juan Ramon Guerrero. We honor Paul Terrell Henry. We honor Frank Hernandez. We honor Miguel Angel Honorato. We honor Javier Jorge Reyes. We honor Jason Benjamin Josaphat. We honor Eddie Jamoldroy Justice. We honor Anthony Luis Laureano Disla. We honor Christopher Andrew Leinonen. We honor Alejandro Barrios Martinez. We honor Brenda Marquez McCool. We honor Gilberto Ramón Silva Menéndez. We honor Kimberly Jean Morris. We honor Akyra Monet Murray. We honor Luis Omar Ocasio Capó. We honor Geraldo A. Ortiz Jimenez. We honor Eric Iván Ortiz Rivera. We honor Joel Rayon Paniagua. We honor Jean Carlos Méndez Pérez. We honor Enrique L. Rios Jr. We honor Jean Carlos Nieves Rodríguez. We honor Xavier Emmanuel Serrano-Rosado. We honor Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz. We honor Yilmary Rodríguez Solivan. We honor Edward Sotomayor Jr. We honor Shane Evan Tomlinson. We honor Martín Benítez Torres. We honor Jonathan A. Camuy Vega. We honor Juan Pablo Rivera Velázquez. We honor Luis Sergio Vielma. We honor Franky Jimmy de Jesús Velázquez. We honor Luis Daniel Wilson-León. And we honor Jerald Arthur Wright.

We pledge to fight in their names.

We are not all free until all of us are free. Don’t you dare come for any of us.

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