Protecting and uplifting the LGBTQIA+ community through communications
This blog was written by Marilyn Ojo, intern at Spitfire Strategies
On Saturday, June 12, 2016, Shane Evan Tomlinson performed at the Blue Martini nightclub in Orlando, Florida. He was the lead vocalist of his band, Frequency, and known as an ever-moving presence on stage. He and his band were scheduled to perform three more shows at Blue Martini in the following two weeks. But that same night, only a few hours after their performance, Tomlinson was shot and killed at Pulse nightclub, a gay club in Orlando, becoming one of 49 victims of gunman Omar Mateen.
Tomlinson and the 48 other victims of the Pulse shooting chose to spend their night in a space that would welcome their identity. But their sense of belonging and safety were taken from them all. Six years later, on November 19, 2022, more queer lives would be taken due to gun violence, this time at the LGBTQIA+ nightclub, Club Q, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Gun violence against the LGBTQIA+ community is an ongoing issue that endangers our community solely because of our identity. Furthermore, this crisis predominantly affects queer people of color, like the predominantly Latinx victims of the Pulse shooting, and the 8 in 10 Black trans women that lose their lives to gun violence everyday with little to no media coverage.
Our elected officials, sworn to protect constituents, are using their power and platforms to increase division and encourage harm to these communities. Most recently, Tennessee’s governor signed into law an anti-trans and anti-drag bill. Going into effect on July 1, 2023, the bill will criminalize gender affirming care (i.e., surgeries and hormone treatments for transgender youth) as child abuse, as well as ban drag performances (male or female impersonators) on public property.
At least nine GOP-led legislatures have proposed similar bills. These bills spread disinformation and hate speech, adding to a heightened state of alarm for the LGBTQIA+ community. The fear mongering over self-expression for the LGBTQIA+ community has become violent. Protesters, some of them armed, threw rocks and smoke grenades at one another outside a drag event in Oregon last year and a Holi-Drag storytime was canceled in Ohio due to concerns about safety as Proud Boys members and other demonstrators, some armed, gathered.
Spitfires, communicators and allies everywhere have a duty to defend the LGBTQIA+ community. It is essential to remember the lives that have been lost, make space for members of the community that are grieving, and take stands against harmful narratives and legislation that encourage continued violence. Gun violence towards the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color leaves a collective burden on the shoulders and hearts of queer Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) folks everywhere. During these times, awareness, empathy and action is what lightens the load.
Justice can only be served if people are aware of what is happening. Media coverage should not be reserved for large-scale tragedies; local and national news outlets also have a responsibility to report injustices, including local and state legislation, so action can take place. Continue to condemn gun violence and uplift organizations such as Gays against Guns that prioritize direct action. Stay vigilant on countering narratives creating misinformation and use these tips from Just Truth to combat and to stop the spread of disinformation. Remember, the fight is not over until all LGBTQIA+ lives are protected and granted the freedom to live authentically.