Queer Latinx Reactions in the Wake of the Orlando Tragedy
By Randall Jenson
Randall Jenson (St. Louis, MO), a queer, multiracial Latinx artist, advocate, and youth organizer
Photo: Jessica Neria
“Sunday, June 12, 2016 will be a date that most LGBTQ Latinx people, a trans and gender-inclusive term to acknowledge people with heritage in Spanish speaking countries, will remember where they were for the rest of our lives. It will become part of our lineage, memory, and embodied trauma of our personal identity and community formation. For LGBTQ Latinx folks, we know that the impact of this violence is not over. The residual trauma and post-traumatic stress will increase for many in our communities, as the massacre is only the tip of an iceberg of systematic violence facing LGBTQ black and brown people. As the weeks go on, we may lose more of our loved ones to self-harm and suicide as the dominant narrative shares that being LGBTQ is essentially unsafe.”
Milani Ninja (Chicago, IL), a queer, gender non-conforming Latinx community organizer and drag performing working in HIV prevention
"One thing I started thinking about is all of the Puerto Rican natives who had to move to Florida with the crisis going on right now in Puerto Rico—largely that the U.S. is responsible for—with no jobs, resources, and limited medical access. It’s really bad that people had to move to other cities like Orlando. So what if this crisis in Puerto Rico wasn’t going on, maybe these people at Pulse would still be alive?"
Celia Ruiz Calderón (Kansas City, MO), a Lesbian, Mexican community organizer and one of the lead advocates on the Tamara Dominguez homicide investigation
Photo: Celia Ruiz Calderón
"For white and straight folks who want to support, step back and let us have a voice. It could seem like this may not make sense to you, you could feel like you don’t have a place here, but for these first initial moments, let us come together and have our voice. The first priority is to be victim-centered, so because this happened to LGBTQ Latinx folks in Orlando, this could mean that initial conversations need to happen in Spanish and be about the undocumented community. So shut up listen."
Ariel Cerrud (Washington, DC) a queer, Latino community health immigrant
Photo: Ariel Cerrud
"With the aftermath of what happened, I've now seen a lot of Pride events and gay bars working with police. I saw this picture of two armed police officers standing outside a club. We don’t need guards, police, or the perpetuation of violence from law enforcement and their presence in a place that’s supposed to be safe. If you are a queer undocumented person, you don’t want to see a police officer with a gun in the place you’re supposed to have a good time."
Monica Beverly Hillz (Chicago, IL), a trans Latina advocate and showgirl, Season 5 cast member of 'RuPaul’s Drag Race'
Photo: Nestor Photography
“I was speaking to Jade and trying to console her, hearing all these stories and thinking about what if this would happen to all of us. I was crying, answering text messages, and having this fear come over me that I haven’t had in a long time. I had to sleep because I was stuck on Facebook, I could not put my phone down. The media puts out one thing and then you hear these victims who actually survived and are speaking. I thought about that as well, 'Why did this happen to Latinos and Latinas? Whoa, whoa, whoa, what’s really going on here?' There’s something missing and more to the story that we need to find. I’ve been in show business and nightlife for almost 14 years. And this is making me think, 'Do I feel safe anymore?'"
Nia Amador (Kansas City, MO), a queer, gender nonconforming Latinx youth currently residing in a transitional living program
Photo: Nia Amador
“I’ve seen things on my Facebook, like, 'I’m going to buy a gun or get a knife,' while other people are preaching love. I’ve seen a lot of people of color preaching about openness and coming together, but I’ve seen a lot of white people saying they feel unsafe. It’s ridiculous. They are almost inflaming the situation more for themselves to make it more negative. We need to support each other without the violence. I’ve just been silent with shock on Facebook because I really don’t know what to say.”
Gnat Rosa Madrid (Chicago, IL), a queer Tejana artist and party host
Photo: Gnat Rosa Madrid
"I think Latinx Night at Pulse was targeted because it has everything to do with white supremacy and all about intersectional identity. People hate on gay folks and people hate on people of color, but that combined identity makes it so much more intense. Latinx and black folks are the target of so much violence because of white supremacy. I think people are okay with hot white gay dudes because they can put on a suit and be the face of white America, but there’s so much hatred towards black and brown people."
Miguel M. Morales (Olathe, KS), a gay Latino writer and farmworker
Photo: Miguel M. Morales
"I can not say why Pulse was targeted instead of Parliament House in Orlando. The obvious choice would be to say that this specific night is that it’s Latinx night, so there are black and brown people there. But it tears me up because this shooter was brown. Even though he wasn’t Latinx, he was still brown. And he killed other black and brown people. I can’t understand that and how someone’s mind would be so warped they couldn’t recognize the brotherhood of our own skin."
Melissa Celia Garcia (Seattle, WA). a lesbian Latina and Director of Outreach at Seattle Pride
Photo: Nate Gowdy
"It's so important for us to stand together joined as a community and support healing through vigils and memorials. It is also important for us to educate others within our circle and life about Islamophobia, gun reform, and the fact that the media is attempting to erase not only the LGTBQ community's pain and suffering by calling this an 'act of terrorism,' but the Latinx community as well. We must not let them do what has been done to us for so many years in the past."
Bamby Salcedo (Los Angeles, CA), a trans Latina immigrant woman and President and CEO of TransLatina Coalition
Photo: Ari Michelson
“Trauma has a ripple effect, people will remember Pulse—seeing their friends being shot, or killed, and seeing the blood. Pulse survivors will remember seeing their friends of color being executed. I can only imagine the impact this will have on their lives. In a broader context, it’s also traumatizing for us, specifically for trans women of color, as we’re always in this constant state of emergency, looking behind our backs and being on alert. This tragedy will only increase that.”
Jason Villalobos (Lompoc, CA), a gay, Chicano HIV/AIDS activist and wine connoisseur
Photo: Zachary Schmidt
“We know that the Mexican and Chicano populations here in U.S. are heavily Catholic. The Vatican is not supportive of gay rights issues. In Chicano and Mexican communities, the culture is so strong, but more often than not, here in California, families get over it. I think the Pulse shooting will help politicize Mexican Americans, because historically we don’t vote. Now that the Latino communities see that we are under attack, I think our people will be called into action. I want and need to believe that Latinx communities will be mobilized and take a more public stance, both for gun control and smart, sensible gun laws, but also working towards equality for the LGBTQ community. I really hope it awakens the generations that have stayed silent to be with us.”
Francesco Duberli (Miami, FL), a gay, Latino man and CEO of Survivors Pathway
“Within the immigrant LGBTQ Latinx community, we have been exposed to high levels of violence and rejection. Especially for Latinx folks over the ages of 40, many have already experienced post-traumatic stress disorders. Many have immigrated to the states [in hopes of] a safe environment and to heal, whether consciously or unconsciously. But now seeing what happened at Pulse, this will bring back memories of trauma and exposure to anxiety, depression and fear. So now we have our communities coping with new trauma, in good and not-so-good ways, and I don’t know how prepared we are to confront this trauma—for services and to talk about it.”
Eruviel Montes-Quintana (Chihuahua, Mexico), a Mexican-American immigrant and gay Latinx man
Photo: Eruviel Montes Quintana
“I am coping with this tragedy by surrounding myself with love and attempting to create awareness around a much bigger issue that keeps getting missed by the media—the impact this will have on the Latinx community. A lot of pain and rage is going to surface. My hope is that this will create more unity in our community. Latinx people will see that the media and 'allies' are not going to give us the space to feel that we were targeted. Unfortunately, I think there are a lot of us who are finally going to come to terms with being viewed as disposable members of the community.”
Wady Alejandro Guzman (Chicago, IL), a Latino gay man and nightlife promoter
Photo: Wady Alejandro Guzman
“I, along with my business partner Alex Cardona, ran Wild Thursdays, an all-ages, predominantly Latinx gay night for over 10 years. I still remember our first night, as I walked to my car right before we opened, I was approached by a young kid who shyly asked what kind of event was about to open. I told him it was a night when everyone was welcomed, he could bring in his boyfriend, girlfriend, friend—it didn’t matter. He thanked me and walked away. Later on that night, I saw him inside, holding his boyfriend, sharing a tender kiss. I knew then we were onto something, not just a club, but a sanctuary where you could be yourself. Through the years we featured performers of all genders and colors of the rainbow. It truly became a community that came together because of love. We became a family. Now, our extended family is hurting, we will band together, we will persevere. One love. One Pulse.”
Crispin Torres (Chicago, IL), a queer, trans Mexican Latinx activist and musician
Photo: Kaaren Fehsenfeld
“To LGBTQ Latinx people, I recommend finding your community and trying your best to stay connected, engaged, but also allowing time for healing and processing. Also, don't push yourself to be the one Latinx voice in your community just because no one else will step-up or because you're the only Latinx person at the table. We are in a moment where the media and other systems are asking a lot of us, to participate and engage when we’ve just experienced a huge trauma. If you need to move back and limit your involvement, don’t feel guilty because you can’t represent our community. We need to remain conscious of our own healing and self-care. This is an unprecedented situation for the LGBTQ Latinx community.”
Corece Smith (Brooklyn, NY), a queer, Black American Man of Afro-Jamaican descent and mixed heritage
Photo: Claudia Garcia-Rojas
“What do you think happens when you have no more space in the corners we’ve been pushed in? These deaths can’t be in vain. The presence of our departed LGBTQ Latinx community in the media is causing our homophobic family members to confront their problematic stances on queerness. We’re continuing to unearth conversations about racism in white queer spaces and even address the outdated issue around who is able to donate blood to our fallen families.”