The events of early Sunday morning have left a jarring mark on the LGBTQ community, one that will never fully heal but will push us toward a better tomorrow.
Over 100 people were shot by an angry and hateful man — a man whose name we will probably see in the media far more than that of any of the victims — who targeted the LGBTQ nightclub Pulse in Orlando. Nearly half of those shot have already passed away.
I grew up in Orlando as a member of the LGBTQ community. I have been marching in Orlando Pride since 2007, and my parents have been doing so even longer.
My sisters have visited Pulse.
I always knew the risk of being out of the closet in high school. LGBTQ youth are twice as likely to be assaulted at school, and 92 percent say they have heard negative messages about the community particularly at school or online, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Despite the numbers, I always did my best to be open about my sexuality and my gender identity. I always thought the best way for me to combat homophobia was to show that I wasn’t afraid of those who wanted to use it as a weapon against me.
This is a view that I continue to hold.
But I lived in a delusion. I wanted to believe those numbers were exaggerated and there couldn’t be that much hate in the world.
As a younger member of the LGBTQ community, I’ve mostly seen the positive results of those who came before me in this battle for equality. I’ve seen a lot of progress in my lifetime, as our country is slowly becoming more accepting of all of its citizens.
I wasn’t alive for the Stonewall Riots of 1969 that are commonly regarded as the beginning of the gay rights movement in the U.S.
I don’t remember when homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder treatable by electric shock.
I don’t even remember the teenage boy who was attacked walking in downtown Orlando just for looking gay in 2005.
I do remember the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ which forced members of the community to remain in the closet while serving in the military.
I remember — a small triumph, really, but impactful to me — when young adult novelist Rick Riordan had a coming out scene for one of his most popular characters in the sixth book he’s featured in.
Most importantly, I remember almost a year ago when the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality legal in all 50 states.
While I was aware of the previous events, their reality never truly sunk in for me.
But this massacre against my home has changed things. My illusion of safety has been shattered. If the goal of this attack was to strike fear, it worked. But that fear will not keep our community silent. If anything, it will make us louder.
The events of this weekend will mark a new era in the fight for equality. This is a battle that our parents cannot fight for us. And unlike those who seek to lash out against us in anger, we know guns and weapons are not the answer to ending this bigotry.
Instead, our weapons need to be compassion, acceptance and love. Fighting hate with hate will only end in more senseless bloodshed on both sides.
We have to be above those who wish ill on us. There are days when it will feel impossible, but to stoop to the level of those filled with hate makes us no better than them.
Like Martin Luther King Jr. fighting for equality with peaceful marches and unifying rallies or Ghandi protesting the oppressive British Empire with the Salt March, we will unify this nation without taking the coward’s way out and resorting to meaningless bloodshed.
We have been battling for decades for the simple right to love and now we must use that love to show the world we cannot be stifled.
Miki Shine is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.