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After Orlando, We Refuse to Live in Fear

Yesterday, at about 7pm, I finally broke down. The day had been full of sorrow, but as a leader, warrior and healer in the LGBTQ community, I knew that I couldn’t let my people down and had to be strong. So I worked at Capital Pride in Washington D.C. under the conditions of heightened security, with the deaths of 50, and many more in critical condition, on my mind. Inside, I was crying tears of pain. But outside, I wore an unapologetically queer outfit to show that we would not be silenced, and will continue to live our lives as they were intended.

The tragedy at Pulse in Orlando sent a warning shot through the LGBT community, and to the whole world, to remind us that there is no such thing as a “safe space.” As we’ve seen time and time again, the spaces we create can be invaded and decimated. And this is just another reminder that we must be careful at all times.

Unfortunately, the Orlando shooting came out of a “perfect storm” of anti-LGBTQ sentiments. The hate speech of politicians, religious radicals of all faiths, and citizens alike, has resulted in the death of dozens of people. Furthermore, this tragedy uncovered the ugly truth about what happens when people don’t realize that we are all intersectional beings—Black and gay, Muslim and queer.

After the tragedy, many rushed to donate blood, but gay and bisexual men were not able to help. While many poured out support for the LGBTQ community, this tragedy was compounded by the FDA’s ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, which only stigmatizes the community further. This ban, coinciding with hate speech driven by anti-gay religious ideology, helps to create an atmosphere where the queer community is treated as children of the lesser God. Though I am happy to say that the ban was ignored and all donors were able to donate, the fact that we are even prevented from helping out in the midst of a tragedy speaks volumes about how LGBTQ people are viewed in this country.

As a Black queer man who advocates on behalf of Black and brown LGBTQ people, I am in pain.

To see the faces and names and families torn apart by something that truly did not have to happen is heartbreaking. As much as I may want to say, “This could’ve been me,” or “This could be me one day,” I must hold back restraint as the focus on this event must stay centered on the victims.

And I will not let their deaths be in vain.

As a community that experienced a domestic terrorism incident that has affected more than 100 victims, we must make sure we don’t allow this tragedy to silence us. We must continue the fight to make the world understand that they cannot simply disregard the intersectional lives of LGBTQ people of color because we are a part of every race, religion, creed, and social circle. If #Blacklivesmatter and #Alllivesmatter, than LGBTQ lives certainly matter, too.

Casual homophobia has got to stop. For far too many of us, it’s all fun and games when hate speech is heard in sound bites on the six-o’clock news, or when the memes shared on Instagram and Twitter become the next viral joke we share with friends.

But what happens when speech becomes action?

What happens when someone buys into the rhetoric about scary trans people attacking children in a bathroom, or the “gay agenda” taking over, or building wall to keep immigrants out? What happens when someone decides that rather than spending billions on a wall or welcome LGBTQ people into their community, they choose to take the lives of those they’ve been told to hate?

Unfortunately we now know the answer.

Now, what are we going to do about it?