News & Media

On Orlando

Dearest Friend,

It is with immense sorrow, fatigue, and anger that Astraea mourns the 50 individuals lost in Sunday's devastating attack on Latino night at PULSE, an LGBT nightclub based in Orlando, Florida. As its name suggests, PULSE served as the heartbeat of a close-knit queer community for over 15 years.

This mind-boggling loss of life is a heart-wrenching reminder of the escalating levels of violence queer and trans* people of color face. In the first five months of 2016 alone, 13 trans* people––11 of color––were murdered across the country. In 32 states, you can be fired simply for being trans*. More recently, we’ve witnessed the increasing politicization and criminalization of trans* people’s basic abilities to occupy public space.

The overwhelming and insidious interweaving of transphobia, homophobia, racism and xenophobia has resulted in a horror for which there is no name, only consequence:

The worst massacre of LGBT people in American history.

We cannot forget the history of violence this act lives within: In 1890, over 150 Lakotas were massacred at Wounded Knee. Three decades later, hundreds were massacred in the Tulsa race riots. Fast-forward to last summer's massacre of nine congregation members at Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston. If we truly want to end this epidemic once and for all, we must rewrite the systemic script of how and against whom hatred and violence are aimed.

We can no longer deny that we are in the midst of a backlash against the advances made by queer and trans* people. This blatant disregard for human life is being exacerbated by the 200+ pieces of anti-LGBT legislation put forth in the past year alone. In light of the bloodshed in Orlando, those perpetrators of bigotry have offered little outside of platitude, silence, and anti-Muslim sentiment. LGBT Muslims are a resilient part of of our community, and are especially vulnerable to violence in the wake of this tragedy. Islamophobia will never have a seat at our table.

It is particularly sinister that such an act should occur in an LGBT space during Pride Month. Yet, since the earliest days of our movements, queer and trans* people have understood the vital importance of taking up space, and creating safe space! Our community comes together––pulsing––to celebrate, to build family (of both blood and of choice), to experience love, to escape the world’s most cruel realities, to dance, to build community, and to mourn. The organizations Astraea supports are testament to this legacy: across the country, from Detroit Represent! in Michigan to Familia in California, activists are continuing the fight for rights, dignity, and liberation.

At the Compton Cafeteria Riots in 1966 and again at Stonewall in 1969, our movements’ predecessors defended our right to do just that. And we, their children, must continue to fight for the right to live freely within our bodies and our own four walls––be they community centers in Phoenix or nightclubs in Orlando, churches in South Carolina or mosques in New York City. Together, we seek a justice that enfranchises all of us.

May the bereaved find strength in our togetherness.

With deep solidarity,

J. Bob Alotta