By Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis –
Stanley, Rodolfo, Antonio, Darryl, Angel, Luis, Cory, Tevin, Deonka, Simon, Leroy, Mercedez, Peter, Juan, Paul, Frank, Miguel, Javier, Jason, Eddie, Anthony, Christopher, Alejandro, Brenda, Gilberto, Juan, Akyra, Luis, Geraldo, Eric, Joel, Jean Carlos, Enrique, Jean, Xavier, Christopher, Yilmary, Edward, Shane, Martin, Jonathan, Juan, Luis, Franky, Jerry.
This is the name of the 49 mostly Latinx members of the LGBTIQ community who were senselessly murdered in the early morning hours of June 12, 2016 in the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. When we visited the Pulse Memorial 18 months ago, we saw beautiful photos of all of these valued members of our community. They were out on a Saturday night at the Pulse, a place they thought was safe to relax, dance and just be themselves, as a lone gunman with a SIG Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle and was armed with a 9mm Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol, opened fire, killing them and wounding 53 others. This week marks the fifth anniversary of the massacre. It remains the deadliest hate crime committed by a single individual in American history.
Jennifer, Serena, Dustin, Brenda, Giselle, Tamara, Michelle, Fabiola, Hilary, Leticia, Shakira, Felycya, Isabelle, Samantha, Sabrina, Nicole, Matthew, Francesca, Monique, Maria, Alexa, Ali, Vanessa, Isadora, Stephanie, Valeria, Anushka, Paloma, Kelly, Daniela, Naomi, Lexi, Dominique, Mira, Sasha, Natasha, Juliana, Katherine, Melody, Manuela, Rhyanna, Leona, Tiffany, Marilyn, Eduarda, Marcia, Brandy, Mateus, Pablo, Britany.
These are just the names of a few of the hundreds of transgender people, mostly colored people, who were murdered in the last year alone. They came from as far away as Arkansas, Brazil, France, India, Mexico, Pakistan, Ohio, Puerto Rico, and New York City. They lost their lives because they had the courage to live true to themselves.
We could add another name to the list of LGBTIQ people who died from hatred and gun violence: Harvey.
We remember Harvey Milk’s famous words recorded in 1978 on a tape that was to be played in the event of his murder: “If a bullet should get into my brain, that bullet shall destroy every closet door in the country.”
Pride Month is a celebration of the destruction of cabinet doors, whether we smack them in one fell swoop or close them quietly behind us as we break free. For us, it’s about being loud, strong, and happy, based on the relative safety of San Francisco and other places where we can raise our voices and be ourselves. For those of us who live in homes or communities where it is not safe to do so in public, pride can manifest itself through a strong inner strength and sense of wellbeing that refuses to embrace the beauty of our sexuality and our gender Lock expression in an inner closet. We refuse to figuratively become our own inner murderer, to give up our inner happiness and to give up hope.
A sunlit and faded trans rainbow flag at the Pulse Memorial reads, “Bullets can’t break our pride. More love, less hate. “
Since the nationwide victory over marriage equality in 2015, Republican and other anti-LGBTIQ political forces have carried out a cynical and unprecedented assault on the rights and freedoms of transgender people for their own political gain. They have turned to Americans’ relative lack of familiarity and understanding with trans- and gender-independent people because their previous attacks on LGB people are no longer resonating across much of the country. This orchestrated defamation and stigmatization of trans people is deadly, as evidenced by the record number of murders of trans people, especially trans women. And the dismal data shows that transphobia is a worldwide epidemic.
This new awareness is what makes trans people particularly vulnerable right now, and together we must stand up for transgender rights and support trans people. But as we’ve seen with marriage equality and the broader LGBTIQ movement, breaking open closet doors over time leads to more love, dignity, and respect – and civil rights.
Even if this year, like last year, the COVID-19 pandemic is preventing us from appearing in the millions on Market Street as usual, Pride remains a time for us to enjoy the beauty and joy of being LGBTIQ together and to agree for everything Get involved We can prevent hateful violence from stealing even more lives from our community. Happy Pride Month – let’s keep changing the world!
Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis together were plaintiffs in the California case for equal marriage rights ruled in 2008 by the California Supreme Court for over three decades. Her leadership in the grassroots organization Marriage Equality USA helped make same-sex marriages legal nationwide in 2015.
Published June 10, 2021