By Jorge Diaz, MSW Clinical Social Worker
Orlando was the biggest massacre in U.S. history, but for many of us, Latino lives gave this tragedy a face, a story, and left us with mixed emotions and many life lessons. Their stories of survival during a time of fear and hate united us in solidarity and fueled our desires and demands for change. Who were these individuals and how did they change the world and our lives forever? The mother who died protecting her son as she celebrated with him was absolutely touching! How ironic that many mothers are unable to love or accept their LGBT child, yet this mother dies for her gay son at a gay nightclub? Or the couple that lost their lives and their funeral arrangements became their wedding-the beauty in these two families and the powerful message that “love” is stronger than cultural or religious beliefs that fuel family rejection. In their pain and loss they have come together to honor their sons and their love for one another without shame or stigma. Or the girl, who was with friends and soon after hearing gun shots, ran and made it to the door only to realize that one of her friends was missing-she decided to go back. Unfortunately, she never made it out, exemplifying the profound definition of “friendship and courage.” Or the son texting his mother while trapped in the bathroom, fearing for his life: “Mommy, help… he’s coming… I’m going to die…” The connection this son had with his mother to seek her protection in a time of need and despair just as when we were children-absolutely beautiful! To use the word “mommy” just reminds us to never lose sight of that innocent inner child and love we have for our mothers and be free to express it with the simple word “mommy.”
In the hands of hate, 49 lives were lost, yet we gained many life lessons from their stories and acts of bravery and courage. For many, it’s a time to grieve and mourn, for others, it’s a time of activism and demand for change-just remember, we all process grief and loss differently. Though we feel scared and vulnerable, this event should help us define “solidarity” in the Latino LGBT community against this plague of hate and violence. It will make us louder and more visible as we demand equality rather than silence or shame us in our grief and sorrow. To the lives lost-we will always remember you as “heroes” of Orlando rather than victims of Orlando. Because of you, millions of people around the world united in solidarity to strengthen our powerful LGBT movement. The world will never forget Orlando, but the world has yet to see a better place for all of us to be free, safe and proud of whom we are.