More than 300 people went out for a night of fun at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. Forty-nine lost their life, and many others will be forever scarredby this attack. What can we do to
prevent these senseless acts of mass violence?
As a journalist, I’ve interviewed many victims of terrorism and hate. I’ve witnessed the palpable anguish of a mother who lost her daughter in the November 2015 Paris attacks and shared the heart wrenching pain of a transgender Latina recounting her struggle to find understanding and acceptance when she was growing up. When I first heard of this horrible act of violence, my thoughts quickly went to the relatives and friends of the victims.
As a citizen, I have a hard time accepting that mass shootingscan happen anywhere, even in my own backyard. Any place where people gather is a potential target. The effect on one’s sense of personal safety is devastating. The easy path would be to passively accept this new reality. That’s not an option I’m willing to embrace.
As a mom, I worry about the world that my kids now live in. Hate and violence have always existed, but it is now easier to express that hatred in ways that result in substantial loss of life. Where does it stop? Can any good come from this tragedy?
Fear is the weapon that terrorists and mass shooters wield most effectively. We cannot live in fear; life must go on. At the same time, we cannot turn a blind eye and do nothing. Each of us can play our own role, however small, to chip away at one of the key motivating factors in mass violence: hate.
The challenge may seem too large, too intricate, too intractable, too impossible. Each of us must take up the fight against hatred and violence. We can succeed in the larger conflict only by winning small victories.
Most of the victims of the Pulse attack were Hispanic. As I contemplate the horror of their final moments, as well as the ongoing struggles of the survivors, I think about the lives they led as members of the LGBT community. For the most part, homosexuality and gender transitions remain taboos in Latino culture. How much pain, suffering, and discrimination did these victims endure in their own lives? How much hatred and violence was directed toward them before that night?
The Latino community still has a long way to go on LGBT issues. There needs to be faster movement towards awareness and education. Only then can we as a society embrace
understanding, tolerance and acceptance.
Last year, I interviewed several people who are at different stages of their gender transitions including Elvira, a mother of Mexican descent whose son is a transgender boy. Her child, Jessica, was born a girl but always felt she was a boy trapped in a girl’s body. At first, Elvira shrugged it off, thinking her daughter was just a tomboy. But as the child persisted, Elvira eventually realized that she had to let her child be who he was. She turned to the Internet to educate herself, determined to learn and comprehend what it meant to be transgender. Soon thereafter, she helped him begin his transition. First it was simply a haircut then neutral clothes like t-shirts and pants. At that point, she recalls how a smile returned to her child's face. And at ten years of age, she granted
him his wish and began calling him Christian. It was a decision that cost her dearly.
Family and friends stopped speaking to her and accused her of being crazy. But that didn't stop her. Her next step was finding the proper hormone treatment to continue with his transition
until he reaches adulthood. Elvira cried as she told me that what worries her the most are the things she can't control...the ignorance, the hate and bullying that Christian may face as he becomes a young man and the fear that he will be harmed just because he’s a transgender man. It was a fear that materialized before her eyes on Sunday, June 12. Anyone at Pulse nightclub could have been her son. Christian’s bravery and Elvira’s unwavering love and determination give me hope.
It is up to us as individuals to make the changes necessary so that her fears go unwarranted.
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