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We Are Orlando

June 15, 2016

It started out as a just another normal day when I woke up on the morning of June 12th . I did my usual routine when I get up and checked my phone for any Facebook updates, an unhealthy reality that most of us have become slaves to doing each day. I scrolled down my newsfeed and within seconds, my heart sank after reading the headline to a breaking news story. A mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida that claimed approximately 20 lives. As the hours ticked by, and my news feed began to bring up more updates, the details of what happened became more and more detailed. The confirmed number of lives lost came to at least 50, with 54 others injured and in hospital.

 

So here we are once again. Another act of mindless hatred against the LGBT community in the U.S. Where do I begin to even put into words how I feel? My thoughts have been consumed with so much anger as result of this horrific attack. I think about the number of people that were taken by the hand of a person whose name I don’t even want to say, as I don’t wish to provide any further publicity to such a disgusting and cowardly excuse for a human being. I think about the family and friends of those affected by the attack, whose lives have been so devastatingly crushed from loss and heartbreak. And lastly, I think of the LGBT community and its many, many allies all around the world, whose hearts have broken at the sound of gunshots and panic in the streets of Orlando.

 

There have been countless responses on social media and comment threads following the attack, and it deeply saddens me to once again see so much hatred and ignorance. It saddens me because I knew these types of comments were coming the moment I heard the news of what happened. Seeing some of the most degrading and out right offensive responses to what’s happened at Pulse Nightclub on social media has been so disgusting, that I’ve come to a point where I’m no longer shocked by it anymore. I wholly believe that every person is entitled to their own opinion, but for some reason, a lot of people think that gives them a free pass to flat out insult, subjugate and even threaten others with hate speech and agenda pushing. 

 

Donald Trump was quick to update his Twitter with ‘I told you so’ type messages about Islamic terrorists and how his racist, right wing agenda has been proven as the way to ‘Make America Great Again’. Are you serious? Using an act of horror on the LGBT community to prove your psychotic agenda if elected President instead of acknowledging the tragedy our community has endured in any real sincere way?! Fuck off you arsehole! The scariest thing of it all is that a vast amount of society actually swallow the bullshit and begin tapping their keyboards on news threads spreading fear and hate even further. 

 

I wrote a blog following the Paris Attacks and spoke about how a big chunk of society automatically think that one person’s actions speak for an entire race or religion. The Orlando attack is causing this to happen again. Floods of comments have surfaced from people saying that Muslims are evil, that Islam is to blame, that the entire religion is disgusting and that Muslims should burn in hell. This is getting ridiculous! How many times do we have to say that one person’s actions do not speak for anybody else except for that person. The Pulse Nightclub attack was carried out by a person who acted on his own volition. Instead of putting the blame on a whole religion, put the blame on the individual. At the end of the day, he’s the one who did it! 

 

It’s become frighteningly easy to spread so much hate on social media which causes nothing but fear and panic, when we should be banding together as one in order to help those who need it the most. We have gun fanatics saying that all Americans have the right to bear arms, which includes an AR-15 assault rifle. Not only was this the same weapon the shooter was able to purchase legally, but is also known as ‘America’s Gun’ and is owned by around 3.7 million households across America. Let’s just take a moment to process that. What the actual hell?! I couldn’t care less what the second amendment states, there is absolutely nothing any law could say that could make me agree with the right for someone to legally purchase an assault rifle that can shoot between 700-950 rounds per minute. 

 

You don’t need me to list statistics on just how bad gun violence is in the U.S. All you need to do is search online to find the countless news articles with titles like ‘US Officer Charged Over ‘Accidental’ Fatal Shooting’, ‘Two Year-Old Boy Shoots Mother Dead In Walmart’ or ‘Nine Dead In US College Shooting’. I’m sure there are many U.S citizens who use firearms responsibly, but the fact of the matter is clear as glass. YOU DON’T NEED GUNS! Why is it so hard to understand this? There is no need to have assault rifles and hand guns for protection or for any other reason. All it does is make it easier for someone to harm themselves and harm other people. 

 

The LGBT community has been the target of horrific hate crimes that results in so many lives lost in America, yet it takes something as huge as ‘the biggest mass shooting in U.S history’ to bring the struggles we endure to worldwide news. People of the LGBT community have been dealing with hate crimes for many years, and enough is enough. I’m not going to be silenced by fear and let this suffering continue, when all we are doing is living our own lives. Why is that such a problem to people? Oh, wait, I forgot, all gay people are perverts and transgender individuals, such as myself, like to go in public restrooms and molest children. Give me a fucking break! I’m not standing for it anymore. Watching people being gunned down because of someone else’s beliefs while we are condemned to the fires of Hell for our beliefs…I don’t think so.

 

The aftermath of the Orlando shooting has left an enormous void in many hearts. The LGBT community and it’s allies have shown solidarity and unity, which is something I knew we would do. That’s the kind of people we are. I wasn’t at all shocked to see live Facebook videos at The Stonewall Inn and vigils being held here in the UK to honour the lives lost. This is what we do. It’s this type of solidarity that shows that we will not succumb to fear. The LGBT community is no stranger to fighting against hate and the awful truth is that it will never stop, but that doesn’t mean we will be beaten. Even now, the fact that a ban of men giving blood unless they have not engaged in sexual activity with another man for at least 12 months still exists is absolute madness…even in the UK! 

 

America needs to wake the fuck up and sort itself out. The world is watching and we are witnessing a country destroy itself and making innocent people pay the price. It’s not fair. I may not be a religious person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have faith. I have faith in the people who want to make a change for the better and I have faith that the LGBT community will continue to make a real difference. It’s a long road we must go down, but we have to start somewhere. It’s so scary to think that people in power can make such awful choices that cause people in the LGBT community to live an even harder life than they already have to, but it’s up to us to fight back.

 

As I come to the end of this, I’m still filled with so much emotion, but I keep in mind the millions of people who are reaching out to those in need in Orlando, whether it’s lining up to give blood, raising money to help the families affected or even showing and sharing support and kind words on social media. It gives me hope. The LGBT community is feeling the pain that is echoing across the world. We will make it through this, and we will continue to be who we are and be proud of who we are. 

 

Please do all you can to help and continue to do so in your life. This isn’t just a one time thing, this is every day life. Your LGBT community is strong, but is made stronger with your support. There are a million and one ways for you to make a difference, however big or small. I said earlier that I didn’t want to mention the name of the one person responsible for this tragedy, instead I’d rather give the ones who are no longer with us as a result the recognition they deserve. You are beautiful. You are missed. You are not forgotten. #WeAreOrlando

 

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old

Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old

Kimberly Morris, 37 years old

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old

Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old

Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old

Amanda Alvear, 25 years old

Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old

Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old

Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old

Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old

Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old

Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old

Cory James Connell, 21 years old

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old

Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old

Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old

Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old

Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old

Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, 24 years old

Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old

Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old

Frank Hernandez, 27 years old

Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old

Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old

 

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