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#WeArePulse: Members of the Disabled PoC LGBTQ+ Community Speak Out

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This week’s post will be to honor the 49 lives that were taken too soon in the Pulse shooting that happened in Orlando last weekend.  The act was senseless and filled of hate, and another example of how pivotal it is for us as a nation to take a firm stand on gun control in order to stymie the all too frequent occurrences like this we see too much of.

I wanted to cover this moment, since so many within the disability community, particularly those who are of color and LGBTQ+, were deeply affected by what took place.  I asked those who were of color, disabled, and LGBTQ+ to share their thoughts with me, and my request was fulfilled by several who were willing to give us a glimpse into why they are Pulse.  

Without further ado…

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Ariana Perry, an undergraduate student who is of mixed race/Black ancestry, shared how coming out as queer has been the “easiest” identity for her as a femme bisexual than being disabled as she reflects on Orlando:

It’s so weird. Being a black, disabled, queer woman, queer has always seemed the easiest identity for me. I grew up with people who were supportive of queer people, whereas the racism, ableism, and misogyny seemed much more prominent and challenging in my daily life. I would much rather come out as queer than disabled, for example. Coming out as queer usually just takes a joke to introduce the topic, and that’s the end of it pretty much. With a disability, I have to explain how I’m different, why I’m like this, and answer the same questions over and over again.

But now this….it’s crazy. How safe you can feel. How naive you can.be. I don’t know if I’ll ever have that comfort or sense of safety again…


Lana* is a Black queer woman in her mid-30s who shared it was members within the LGBTQ+ community that embraced her fully and how these clubs are safe havens for her and so many:  

I know folks want to give history lessons and shit.    But real talk …50 people’s families and friends got calls last night and this morning that someone that was close to them is gone.

I can’t even find the words. To begin to express the deep sorrow I feel for my friend who is a part of that very group of families and friends.

Before the “body positivity ” movement it was the lgbtq community that accepted this big body of mine. Always told me i had face, often reaffirming  my voluptuousness, lovers and friends willing to go to war over social justice issues of all kinds and often at the forefront of major movements. It was late at night in those clubs that I could wear what I want , be who I want, be with who I wanted and not worry about someone wanting to fight us or remind us, particularly my gender non conforming sisters that they are women with rape threats.  I felt safe … dancing in circles feeling free and fly and loved.

I think this is why I am experiencing these bouts of deep sorrow and uncontrollable tears.  Because this massacre is a culmination of the micro aggressions, these violent interactions that people are encountering on the regular.  I mean even in this moment I’m thinking of Kayla Moore who didn’t receive mouth to mouth resuscitation after police tased her because she was a black transgender woman.  Her story got told. How many untold stories exist ?!
Damn.

There is just so much more to say and do … and yet .  this feels like it weighs a brick as I write it .

My love and heart goes out to all of those who are in mourning.


Shatika Turner is a Black 26-year old Lesbian who believes that the government could’ve done more since the gunman has been previously investigated by them, and that acceptance to the way people love should exist already – it’s 2016 for Christsakes:  

On Sunday, June 12th 2016 at about three in the morning, a man walked into post nightclub in Orlando Florida and opened fire killing 49 people and wounding many others. Later on, the gunman was killed.

Within hours, GoFundMes were set up and the victims were beginning to be identified. As with everything else, social media and the people on it took their stance on what they thought happened, why they thought happened, intentions and repercussions.

Here are my thoughts:

As the gun man’s life was being unraveled, you saw that he was previously investigated by the FBI and said many things in a courthouse working as a security guard that should have made people weary and alert a long time ago. This incident, I feel could have been avoided had the government and the officials taken the right steps to remove this man from the streets.

There are a lot of people saying that being gay is a sin, therefore the shooting may have been warranted or they don’t care about it. No matter whether who someone decided to love is a sin or not, no individual deserves to die the way those people did. There are so many instances where people judge and turn their noses up at things they don’t understand, but don’t realize that judging is just as much a sin as being homosexual seems to be.

The government needs to tie in its reins on the people of the world when they see potential problems. They sleep too many things under the rug and then want to scramble and make excuses for why things like this has happened.

As a lesbian myself, I do feel for the victims, their families anyone else affected by this tragedy. It is sad that his motive may have been because he saw two men kissing earlier in the day. This puts fear in us that we can only love who we want to love behind closed doors because it is not accepted.

In 2016, I feel that acceptance shouldn’t be as big of a problem as it is now. The things that people look down on are cover ups because they don’t want to face their own problems. Everyone has skeletons and things that they need to deal with and by focusing on other people’s discretions or lifestyles, they are shying away from their own.

The LGBTQ community is just as important as any other community in the world. If we do not walk around turning her head at heterosexual people and their actions, heterosexual people should not turn your face to tell us who we should love and why.

It is very sad that his actions would’ve been different had it been a woman and a man. This goes to show the small minded people have and the reason why you always fight for acceptance.


Anita Cameron is a 50 years old disabled Afro-Latina / Choctaw Lesbian who is happily married.  Anita shared her thoughts, which can also be found on her blog
Musings of an Angry Black Womyn, about the Islamophobia and ableism in the media coverage of the shooting, and how the incident affected her:

Thoughts About the Massacre in Orlando

Early Sunday morning I woke up to some horrible news. A gunman had entered Pulse, a popular Gay bar in Orlando, Florida, and began shooting. It took police three hours to get to him because he created a hostage situation and apparently, they were trying to negotiate with him.

When it was all over, 50 people, including the gunman, were dead and at least 53 were injured.

I offer my deepest, most heartfelt sympathy to the victims, the injured, the traumatized, their families and friends as they deal with a tragedy beyond reckoning. My heart is with you!

As soon as I heard the story, I knew 2 things: if the shooter was a Muslim, Islamophobia would rear its ugly head and eventually, someone would blame a mental health condition for his unspeakably horrific act.

Unfortunately, I was right on both counts. The shooter, Omar Mateen, was an American-born Muslim and his ex wife claimed that he was mentally unstable. That led to people, including the racist, hateful Donald Trump, fanning the flames of hatred and Islamophobia, while others jumped on the bandwagon of scapegoating and blaming this on mental health issues.

Another thing I knew that would happen was people would attempt to back away from the fact that this was an attack on the LGBTQ community, as well as people of color and frame it as radical Islamic terrorism.

The Pope and several politicians have spoken about this horrendous outrage, while purposely failing to say that it was LGBTQ people at a Gay nightclub who were attacked. If that isn’t erasing, I don’t know what is!

This hit way too close to home for me. Like the victims of this horrible massacre, I belong to the LGBTQ community; I’m a proud lesbian. In addition, I’m Afro-Latina and Choctaw. It was Latinx Night and a celebration of Indigenous peoples, so most of the over 300 people there were Latinx. I love going to Gay bars and had I lived in Orlando, could easily have been chilling at Pulse.

For some reason, this mass shooting, the worst in U.S. history, has triggered old memories and I am not feeling so safe.

This made me think about an incident that happened to me. Shortly after I came out back home in Chicago in 1986, a friend and I were attacked (gay bashed) as we left a Gay bar on Chicago’s North side. Four young men pushed and hit us while hurling anti-LGBTQ slurs. They even followed us on the bus and continued the attack while people watched and did nothing. We managed to get off of the bus and walk home and call the police. As soon as they saw us, two young Black wimmin, it was clear that they, two White cops, gave less than a damn about us. We had to force them to make out a police report.

Our experience with the police mirrors the experience of many, many, many LGBTQ folks. 30 years later, not much has changed for us, which is why I have major problems with the length of time it took the police to bring the carnage at Pulse to an end.

Whatever the reason, most in the LGBTQ community know that the police judge us by our so-called “lifestyle” and “preference” and for the most part, don’t really care for us as human beings.

Gay bars and spaces have always been seen as safe spaces for us, but what happened at Pulse proves that there really aren’t safe places for us in the LGBTQ community, or anywhere, for that matter.

I’m guilty of almost being lulled into a false sense of security because I hadn’t been gay bashed in quite some time. Almost, because I always had it in the back of my mind that it could happen again. I’d breathed a sigh of relief when the dude in Colorado Springs who saw me leave a concert alone with my Pride shirt on, only followed me and yelled stuff at me and didn’t beat or rape me.

I started to feel like things were getting better because I could hold my wife’s hand, or give her a peck on the cheek without people making comments, but maybe I am safe because my wife looks “manly”. Still, I’m no femme; I, too, get mistaken for a guy. I think I’ve just been lucky. Others, particularly trans folks, especially trans wimmin of color are brutalized and murdered almost with impunity and suffer further indignity by being misgendered by police and reporters.

What happened at Pulse has brought all of this back to me, though I know that even though we have marriage equality and can serve openly in the military, that means nothing when our lives are so devalued that we can be slaughtered on the street or in what we think is a safe space and people celebrate our death. We can still get fired from our jobs, LGBTQ teenagers are killing themselves in record numbers due to bullying and people are still afraid to come out for fear of this, as well as being disowned by parents, who have no qualms about putting their preteen or teenaged children out on the street.

I keep wondering what the clubbers at Pulse were thinking. Were they feeling safe because they were there and could be themselves?

And, let it not be forgotten ever, ever, EVER that this hate crime was not only against the LGBTQ community, but also against people of color. Almost every single person murdered in cold blood that early Sunday morning was either Latinx, Black and/or Indigenous. Let’s not whitewash or erase this!

And for folk wanting to believe that this was radical Islamic terrorism and wondering where the guy got radicalized, that radicalization took place right here in the good old U. S. of A., but the massacre at Pulse had nothing to do with Islam or religion! It had everything to do with the fact that the shooter was an angry, violent individual who hated the LGBTQ community, whose hatred caused him to plan an act of unspeakable evil.

This guy was an American, born and bred. He was a wannabe who ran his mouth, but law enforcement found no ties to Islamic terrorists. That 911 call was his last attempt to make himself seem bigger than he. He wasn’t really religious. If any radicalization took place that would lead him to plan the massacre at Pulse, it was society’s overall views on the LGBTQ community and people of color. It was his hatred of himself as a gay man.

I hear people saying that the shooter had mental health issues because his ex wife claimed that he was mentally unstable. Don’t fall into the trap of blaming this on mental health issues! That seems to happen after every mass shooting. All this does is stigmatize folks with mental health conditions; as as someone who lives with depression, I can say with certainty that this is not good for us. Those of us with mental health conditions are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.

As for gun control, yes, we need it, but not at the expense of, and on the backs of folks with mental health disabilities. We need to make it harder for anyone to get guns, especially assault weapons.

What we really need to do is to address the underlying reasons and causes of mass shootings.

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out why people go on mass shootings, but sometimes, injustice is the root cause. I’m not trying to make excuses, but it is well-known that if some people are systematically abused and marginalized, they will turn violent.

For me, though, the thing foremost in my mind is that my people were slaughtered. I’m in deep mourning and I am angry! Angry that people are trying to make something out of this that erases the glaring fact that these beautiful people were LGBTQ and people of color. They were targeted for being who they were. They were from groups that it is very easy for people to hate on. They were enjoying and celebrating their culture – my culture – in what was supposed to be a safe space, only to have their lives ripped from them by someone who saw himself as being of the dominant culture and therefore, better than them.

I’m deep in my feelings right now, so I’m asking y’all to bear with me. I’m afraid to leave my house. Don’t come at me with that don’t-give-in-to-fear BS. Let me work this out on my own. I’m also having flashbacks of the gay bashing my friend and I endured. I don’t know why that’s happening, but it is.

My thoughts are scattered and I’m doing my best to put these thoughts down while they’re still fresh and raw, so pardon me if this sounds disjointed.

I call on my friends and allies to honor these beautiful people, lift them up and speak out against homophobia, transphobia and racism. Write blogs, articles and statements of support and solidarity that center us. If you run an organization, mainstream or no, please make public statements in solidarity with our communities. While I have seen a vast outpouring of support from individuals on social media, I haven’t seen much from straight, White-led organizations, including mainstream disability organizations. I thank those organizations and individuals that have made statements of support.

Some have asked specifically what the disability community can do, since some of the survivors may acquire disabilities as a result of the shooting. As someone with disabilities, I think that there needs to be some healing first. I also think that we in the disability community need to be really careful that we don’t make this all about us and forget that this is about an attack on the LGBTQ community of people of color.

Perhaps we should concentrate on being good allies, embracing their LGBTQ/POC identities before we sweep them under the disability umbrella, lest we be seen as only caring because some may now be disabled.

I also ask that you remember that those of us who are LGBTQ and Latinx, Afro-Latinx and Indigenous are grieving hard. Please don’t come at us with stuff about radical Islamic terrorism. The guy may have been a Muslim. He may have wanted to be involved with terrorists. He may have did and said things just before the massacre at Pulse, but this had nothing to do with Islam! There is homophobia and transphobia in the Muslim community, just as there is in all the major religions and society at large. But his religion was not the cause of this hate crime. His hatred and anger is what brought this about.

Also, please don’t send us pics, tweets or other stuff about hateful people celebrating the bloodbath at Pulse. There are some of us who are still struggling with our feelings about our orientation. We don’t need to see that mess!

Take heart for, and remember that there were, and are people who were outed without their permission. They may face reprisals from family members or may even get fired from their jobs.

Understand that this is not the first time that LGBTQ, Indigenous people and folks of color have been killed en masse, nor will this be the last. A man was arrested in California with guns and bomb materials headed to a Pride parade. I am hearing about public attacks on trans people since Orlando. This is extremely frightening, given that trans people, particularly trans wimmin of color are targeted and preyed upon.

Finally, while I know that allies are angry, as well, please don’t make this about you. It’s about a hate crime against LGBTQ people of color. Also, if you get called out by one of us for making this about you, understand and step back. Don’t get angry. Remember to lift up and center us and don’t talk over us. Don’t straightsplain or Whitesplain to us about our experiences. Be good and conscientious allies.

It’s going to take me a long time to get through this; long after they stop talking about it on the news. Long after the memorials have gotten faded and dusty and long after everyone has forgotten us and moved on to other concerns

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Final Thoughts

As we all come to grips with the tragedy, I urge each and every one of you to take care of yourselves as you process the inconceivable.  Here are a few resources that may help as the healing process begins:

The Trevor Project – Hotline for LGBTQ+ youth
GLBT National Help Center
Trans Lifeline
National Suicide Hotline Prevention – 1 (800) 273-8255
Prevención del Suicidio Ayuda en Espanol – 1 (888) 628-9454
Lifeline Crisis Chat

We are all wondering how we can help those in Orlando.  One suggestion I have seen shared was to support and donate to the LGBT organizations in Orlando.  Here are a few you may want to contribute to:

Letters to Orlando
The Center
Zebra Coalition
Orlando Youth Alliance
Pulse Tragedy Community Fund (created by Equality Florida)

And lastly, there have been two great book lists created in response to what has occurred that I thought would be fitting to share:

#PulseOrlandoSyllabus
In Honor of Orlando:  10 Books that Celebrate Queer Latinx Identity – compiled by Read Diverse Books

(Featured headline image:  Courtesy of Mike Mort.)

(* = name have been changed.)

About Vilissa Thompson, LMSW

Vilissa is the Founder & CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization she created to establish herself as a Disability Rights Consultant & Advocate. Ramp Your Voice! is a prime example of how macro-minded Vilissa truly is, and her determination to leave a giant "tire track mark" on the world.

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