The members of the UMBC Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Faculty and Staff Association are horrified, grieved, and heartbroken in response to the hate crime/mass murder in Orlando on Sunday. We send our love and support to the Orlando LGBTQIAA+ Latinx community, the LGBTQIAA+ Muslim community, and the broader LGBTQIAA+ community. Those of us who are able are donating to LGBTQIAA+ organizations in Orlando to provide tangible help as those communities continue to grieve.
To the LGBTQIAA+ students, staff, and faculty members who are not members of the LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Association, we want you to know that you are not alone. We are here with you (you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org), to grieve, to provide support, and to plan for the next steps in the social change that must happen. Acts of hate and terror will not bend our community’s resolve to continue our teachings about love in the face of years of violence against our communities. We are firm in our belief that violence, whether from a terrorist act, or from a homophobic individual, will not defeat us or our hard earned freedoms. We are also planning a vigil, and will soon announce details.
We recognize that our strength comes from our collective power to engage in conversation and to reach out to others. We condemn the exploitation of the Orlando hate crime to spread further hate and violence towards Muslims. We express solidarity with LGBTQIAA+ Muslims who may be feeling unsafe due to the intersection of their identities, and with the Muslim community more generally, whose safety is threatened every time sensationalized reporting immorally generalizes from the acts of a single, violent person to an entire group of people.
To our allies: We appreciate your support, and ask that you continue to listen to members of our community for the types of help that are most needed. Many in our community are feeling outraged, and it is very good to have visible allies who remind us that there are others who are also fighting for our safety and dignity. We have included a list of specific action steps at the end of this statement.
The members of the LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Association span the generations, and many of us have experienced the long history of violence and institutionalized homophobia and transphobia in this country. As we listen to the news coverage of the murders in Orlando, we have never been more convinced of the importance of our work as teachers, researchers, advocates, and allies to our LGBTQIAA+ colleagues and students. The media has not done a great job of including experts in the fields of gender or sexuality in their coverage, or explaining the history of violence directed toward LGBTQIAA+ people of color at gay bars. That this attack happened during gay pride month only adds salt to the wound. Gay pride is a time for celebrating the start of the modern gay liberation movement that was kicked off by the 1969 uprising at the Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich Village where LGBTQIAA+ people (many of whom were also from the Latinx community) had been routinely harassed and assaulted by police, and for the first time, fought back. The Orlando hate crime is only the latest chapter in a long history of violence against LGBTQIAA+ people who have come together in bars and clubs to congregate in safe spaces, only to become the targets of violence.
We have also seen substantial social change/progress and an astonishing expansion of legal protections in our lifetimes. A year ago this month, the U.S. Supreme Court guaranteed LGBTQIAA+ people the right to marry all across the country; but our struggle is not over. We actively resist the complacency that can come from progress, because we see that not all members of our communities have benefited equally from these social and institutional changes. In addition to the Orlando murder of a shocking number of Latinx members of our community, there has been a recent rash of “bathroom bills” across the country targeting transgender and gender non-conforming people, many states still lack legal protections for employment and housing discrimination against LGBTQIAA+ people, and there is an epidemic of murder and violence particularly directed at people of color in our community (for example, the majority of the 31 transgender people murdered in the U.S. in 2015-2016 to date were people of color; of the 802 reported hate crimes against lesbians and gay men in the U.S. in 2015, nearly 60 percent were people of color).
It is very clear: we must continue to fight for the lives and dignity of all members of our community. And there are specific steps we can take to press forward at this time. Some suggestions from members of our community are:
- amplify the thoughts of LGBTQIAA+ people on social media (by sharing posts written by LGBTQIAA+ people) rather than sharing your own statements directly
- attend the UMBC vigil to demonstrate your support (details to be released soon)
- offer to listen to and support your LGBTQIAA+ friends if they want to talk, and cook them a meal or keeping them company if they think it would help
- write to your elected officials demanding legislation to protect LGBTQIAA+ people from discrimination in employment and housing, to control access to automatic weapons, to end the ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood, and to ensure access to bathrooms for people of all gender identities (information about contacting your elected officials is here: www.usa.gov/elected-officials or www.mgaleg.maryland.gov
- donate money to LGBTQIAA+ organizations in Orlando that are doing the work to help the communities in Orlando cope and support each other (for example, Equality Florida (link: http://www.eqfl.org/), Planting Peace (link: https://www.crowdrise.com/we-stand-with-pulse-fund), and the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida (link: http://www.thecenterorlando.org/)