Students and university facilitators advocated the important role of safe spaces for LGBTQ individuals and reflected on their reactions to the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on June 12, in which 49 people were killed and 53 were injured.
Approximately 12 students joined Counseling and Psychiatric Services Staff Psychologist and LGBTQ Specialist Dr. Matthew Schottland, Campus Ministry Director of Residential Ministry Rev. Jonathan Rice and Center for Multicultural Equity and Access Assistant Director of Academic and Student Support Services Devita Bishundat in the conversation in the Leavey Center Club Room on June 21.
Omar Mateen attacked Pulse in the early morning on June 12, before being shot by Orlando police after a three-hour standoff. The shooting is being investigated as both a terrorist attack and a hate-crime against the LGBTQ community. Mateen swore allegiance to the Islamic State during the attack.
President Barack Obama said in a speech to survivors and families in Orlando that the shooting was an attack on American values.
“So whatever the motivations of the killer, whatever influences led him down the path of violence and terror, whatever propaganda he was consuming from ISIL and al Qaeda, this was an act of terrorism but it was also an act of hate. This was an attack on the LGBT community,” Obama said. “Americans were targeted because we’re a country that has learned to welcome everyone, no matter who you are or who you love.”
Hillary Clinton, the presumptive democratic presidential candidate, said in a speech shortly after the attack the United States must continue its efforts to defeat the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, identify terrorists already in the United States and work to protect “soft targets” – locations such as restaurants and entertainment venues that typically do not have significant security. Clinton also said the United States must reform gun control.
“Even as we make sure our security officials get the tools they need to prevent attacks, it’s essential that we stop terrorists from getting the tools they need to carry out the attack. And that is especially true when it comes to assault weapons like those used in Orlando and San Bernardino,” Clinton said. “I believe weapons of war have no place on our streets and we may have our disagreements about gun safety regulations, but we should all be able to agree on a few essential things.”
Donald Trump, the presumptive republican presidential candidate, reaffirmed his commitment to placing a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States in a speech following the attack.
“With 50 people dead and perhaps more ultimately and dozens more wounded, we cannot afford to talk around issues anymore. We have to address these issues head-on. I called for a ban after San Bernardino and was met with great scorn and anger but now many years and I have to say many years but many are saying that I was right to do so. And although the pause is temporary we must find out what is going on. We have to do it,” Trump said.
The event follows a Campus Ministry organized prayer service held in Dahlgren Quadrangle on June 13 and a vigil held in Dupont Circle on June 15. The undergraduate and graduate students who attended the events shared both their immediate reactions to the news of another mass shooting in the United States and their thoughts in the days following the attack.
Counseling and Psychiatric Services, the LGBT Resource Center and the Office of Campus Ministry hosted the event.
Pulse – and other night clubs like it – has been seen as a safe space for LGBTQ individuals, leading to concern among LGBTQ activists that these spaces and others are coming under threat.
Pamela Escalante Gonzalez (SFS ’17), who attended the group discussion, said she believes the number of spaces for LGBTQ students to share their experiences are shrinking, especially after the shooting.
“A lot of pieces that have been published in other news outlets have talked about how few spaces queer people have and that’s why we go to night clubs and such, especially how few spaces queer Latinas have leading to why this was such a hurtful thing to the queer Latinx community,” Escalante Gonzalez said. “Not all queer spaces that are put up by the media are safe spaces for people.”
However, after hearing other students’ reactions, Escalante Gonzalez said she no longer feels as alone as she did immediately following the shooting.
“I feel in solidarity and in company with people,” Escalante Gonzalez said.
Chris Wager Saldívar (COL ’17), another attendee, said the event reminded him of the lack of a visible Latino response to the attack.
“I haven’t once sat down and seen a group of more than three queer Latinx people in a circle,” Wager Saldívar said. “And I think that lack of visibility again has been really harmful to my ability to process all of this and see myself in community with other people who are going through similar stuff as me. Hopefully this conversation will bring more folks together so we can do something like that.”
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