Orlando Nightclub Shooting Was a Hate Crime
“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.”
— Louie A. Ortiz-Fonseca, founder of The Gran Varones, a storytelling project that shines a light on the stories of Latino & Afro-Latino Gay, Queer and Trans men.
I’m writing this column Sunday night. I’ve spent all day online, tracking what is happening in Orlando, Fla., where in the early hours of the day, a gunman shot and killed at least 53 people at a popular gay dance club where folks had gathered for a night of reggaeton, bachata and salsa.
You don’t need me to tell you the details of the Orlando nightclub shooting — every news story out there has them — and after a while they serve more as distraction than revelation. That last is what we crave, not only an answer to an unfathomable “why” but also what it means for us (and about us) as a nation.
It’s valid to point to guns as part of the answer to that why: the ease with which people can lay their hands on assault rifles like Omar Marteen used, for example, or the sheer number of guns in private hands in our nation.
But it is a very partial answer, and one that ignores the particulars of the hate expressed through the crime. This was a slaughter of LGBTQIA folks, many of them Latinxs 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 Latinxs 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.
“As a Queer Latin@ community we constantly deal with acts of violence and discrimination based on our race, gender expression and sexual orientation,” GALAEI (Philadelphia’s Queer Latino Social Justice organization) wrote in release Sunday. “These moments are when we must show our resolve and resiliency. We will not allow hate to deter us from continuing to fight for the dignity we deserve. We will not stop celebrating, loving, comforting and supporting each other. We will not be afraid or let our community be intimidated by violent acts.”
Expressions of solidarity with the victims in Orlando were part of the Pride Parades in Philly and New York on Sunday, and a candlelit vigil will take place at City Hall (North apron) Monday at 6:45 p.m. (It has been suggested that non-LGBTQIA folks who take part in vigils like the one in Philly, help serve as a “buffer zone” and serve as security for LGBTQIA participants — whose sense of safety has been seriously compromised.)
And amid the mourning, the prayers, and the rage at this hate crime, people are still waiting to find out the names of those who died. Two of the dead are from Philly, according to CBS-3. The city of Orlando has a list it is updating as families are notified. By the time the vigil takes place tonight, we will be able to say all their names.
But for now, here are those we know we’ve lost (as of 7 a.m. Monday), listed in Latinx tradition with the word ¡presente! (here, present) appended because the human spirit endures and, as poet Stephen Spender says, what is precious is never to forget.
Edward Sotomayor Jr., ¡presente!
Stanley Almodovar III, ¡presente!
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, ¡presente!
Juan Ramon Guerrero, ¡presente!
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, ¡presente!
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, ¡presente!
Luis S. Vielma, ¡presente!
Kimberly Morris, ¡presente!
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, ¡presente!
Darryl Roman Burt II, ¡presente!
Deonka Deidra Drayton, ¡presente!
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, ¡presente!
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, ¡presente!
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, ¡presente!
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, ¡presente!
Amanda Alvear, ¡presente!
Martin Benitez Torres, ¡presente!
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, ¡presente!
Mercedez Marisol Flores, ¡presente!
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, ¡presente!
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, ¡presente!
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, ¡presente!
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, ¡presente!
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., ¡presente!