On June 12, 2016, an armed gunman entered Pulse, a gay night club in Orlando, FL, and killed 49 people. Nearly all of the victims of the shooting were Latino, and nearly half were Puerto Rican. Since the massacre, which was the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States, Latino and LGBTQ communities around the country have been searching for ways to transform this act of hate and terror into many acts of compassion, remembrance, and peace.
I do believe that focusing on the gunman, Omar Mateen, can be a valuable way to understand the way that masculinity, racism and homophobia contribute to America’s escalating problem with domestic terrorism. I believe strongly that incidents like these can be incredibly effective moments to enact policy that supports the LGBTQ community and people of color and limit access to weapons that were designed to kill. I believe these incidents allow us to reflect on masculinity and cultural notions of manhood that make it difficult for men to acknowledge their aggression and seek help from mental health professionals. But for this reflection, I wanted to talk about something equally important: the challenges that victims of violent acts face in this country, and the ways that we can offer support and compassion in the wake of acts of terror.
Florida ranks 49th out of 50 states in terms of access to mental health care. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that only about 20% of Latino people who experience symptoms of psychological disorders talk to a doctor, and only 10% see a mental health specialist. This has to do with cultural conceptions of mental illness, language barriers, lack of health insurance, and the legal status of many people in Latino communities, but at it’s root it means that the Orlando Latino communities are at an extreme disadvantage when it comes down to getting treatment for symptoms of grief, depression, PTSD, and other mental health problems that arise for victims of the shooting and their families. Similarly, the severity and frequency of hate crimes against LGBTQ people put the queer community in Orlando and across the nation at risk of psychological distress and depression. Because both of these communities are in the minority, they fear being victimized or similarly mistreated by the justice and healthcare systems who are supposed to help them heal.
The Orlando shooting targeted two of the most at-risk communities in the United States. For this reason, it is essential to focus our energy and attention on supporting the victims of this attack, rather than pointing fingers and fear-mongering. Below is a list of the many ways that both national and international audiences can support victims of the Orlando shootings and their communities.
Let’s remember that healing is multi-faceted and complicated. It can look like a sit-in, a blood donation, or a sign on the street corner that reminds Latino and LGTBQ communities that there are compassionate and loving allies nearby.
How to Help:
Donate to the Pulse Orlando Relief Fund
Donate to the We Stand with Pulse Victims Fund to help victims manage medical costs
Sign a petition to lift the ban on gay blood donors in America
Support the Everytown for Gun Safety cause to end gun violence
Girl Museum Inc.