A Small Town Vigil
The day after the Orlando shooting, community members gathered at the little park in the middle of the tiny city of Sunbury, PA. Most of the people were straight. Many were people of faith and clergy including the rabbi from the local synagogue, the president of the Mosque and his wife, and an assortment of Lutheran, Methodist, and Unitarian ministers. Many of these were friends–Nina, Scott, Lori, Soren, and Ann.
Like so many LGBTQ people that week, I needed community. And while part of me wanted to be surrounded by other queer folks, having all of these straight people, feeling the pain, showing their support, this cheered me.
Making Sense of the Horrific
After the candlelight vigil, Nicole, one of the local community organizers, asked me if I would be willing to write an Op-Ed piece for the local paper. They have a regular slot for essay, and she wanted to give it to me. I said yes, then for the rest of the week struggled about what to say.
Orlando was overwhelmingly horrific, but I kept thinking about the many murders in just the past year of transgender people, particularly people of color. The violence in the Pulse Club was concentrated, but much of the violence in our community is spread out. It is at events like the Transgender Day of Remembrance, that the we see the dreadful body count because of violence and hate.
People kept asking me, “What can we do?” And I sputtered. I am no expert. What can we do?
I went into the writing process with these questions and thoughts in my head. Here are some quotes from the piece. You can read the entire Op-Ed here at the Sunbury Daily Item.
Some thoughts on Orlando and violence against LGBTQ People
A safe place became a place of carnage. The number of dead and injured from the Orlando shooting is staggering. A majority of the victims are Latino young men, many originally from Puerto Rico. Still this is not an isolated incident. Though rarely covered by the national and local press, I hear about the relentless assaults against LGBTQ bodies and lives today, especially black and Latino transgender people.
Every Nov. 20 I attend an event called the Transgender Day of Remembrance. It is the day we gather to say the names of the transgender and gender non-conforming people murdered in the past year. We cannot compile a full list of all the dead as many of these crimes are underreported, but the list is always long; the level of violence is always extreme.
At the 2015 Transgender Day of Remembrance, we read the names of over 85 transgender people who were brutally murdered, many in the United States, including Jasmine Collins, who a year ago this month was stabbed to death in Kansas City, Missouri. Her killer prevented others from offering Jasmine CPR. A month later in Fresno, Calif., K.C. Haggard was also stabbed to death. The incident was captured on surveillance video. As she lay dying, bystanders ignored K.C.’s pleas for help. Police are still looking for suspects.
This most recent mass shooting, carried out with a semi-automatic assault weapon, on American soil, at a gay club, on Latino night, by a terrorist declaring his allegiance to ISIS should raise many questions.
One question I have is this: What are we doing to let our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender youth in the Susquehanna Valley know they are loved, they are valued, and they are welcomed gifts in our homes, our schools, and our community?
From the Sunbury Daily Item: