One Year After the Pulse Massacre, You Deserve More Than Survival; You Deserve Life

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June 12, 2017

Co-authored by Lambda Legal Community Education and Advocacy Interns Ravanna Cantrall and Bobby Trice

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”–Audre Lorde

One year ago, vigils, rallies and fundraising events popped up all over the country in response to the theft of 49 lives at Latin Night at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12th, 2016.

People mourned in solidarity for those taken from us in a sacred space of community and acceptance; moreover, we mourned for the sanctity of these spaces. LGBTQ bars and clubs have served as our community’s foundational organizing grounds. They provide space not only for individual validation, but also for community building.

Pulse was that place where “you can be a beautiful drag queen. You can be an ugly drag queen. You can be whatever you want to be and not be judged,” as Alex Goodman, a DJ and Pulse regular, told Vice.

Known as the largest LGBTQ massacre in recent US history, the Pulse massacre occurred in an explicitly LGBTQ and Latinx (a gender inclusive term of Latino/a) space. It was their space and our hearts still break for this loss of life and community safety.

For me (Ravanna), my place is a little divey queer bar. I am not worried about larger gender and sexuality norms; I am worried about my pool game and my cheap beer. Like other people, the queer bar is somewhere that I can just be – unconditionally here and unconditionally queer.

And for me (Bobby), my apartment at college is that place. All of my roommates are queer and trans, and beyond community, we’ve created family there. Whenever I leave, I have to readjust to the refuge-less straight world. Each time, I have to relearn that outside this space, there’s no queer fam waiting to catch me, and one another, at the end of a hard day. For many people, places like Pulse are healing spaces.

When the perceived sanctuary of such spaces is comprised en masse, like after the massacre, LGBTQ folks lose one of few strategies we have to recover and heal from the injustices of everyday life – feeling safe with our people and loved by them.

Today, facing a hostile administration and spikes in hate groups and hate crimes against LGBTQ people, these sites of empowerment are incredibly important for our community. Perhaps now more than ever, we must regain our trust in spaces of celebration and resilience if we are to push forward.

Healing can be a long, slow process, and rebuilding the foundation of our community is no easy feat.

To queer people; to trans folks; to nonbinary and gender-nonconforming comrades; to femmes, drag kings and butch queens; and to everyone who sees themselves in this fight for recognition and survival in straight, cis America:

We see you. You are important. We are important.

You deserve so much more than to survive and get by – you deserve to thrive, to be fulfilled, validated and loved – for who you are.

On this day of all days, grant yourself love and compassion. Care for yourself is care for the community.

As volunteers and interns, this is how we get involved. We hold space for processing, we lift one another up in the struggle, and we speak out against violence and injustice. At Lambda Legal, we continue to advocate for our community and the sanctity of its spaces.

Join us in this fight and get involved today.