This Sunday, fifty LGBTQ+ individuals were killed because of who they love. They were killed because they were women, men, and non-binary people who loved other women, men, and non-binary people. They were killed because each of the fifty individuals was brave enough to live as their authentic self, and to celebrate as they did it.
The Blue Devils United community mourns the loss of each and every person who was targeted today. We mourn them not only because their lives were cut short, but also because this shooting is a manifestation of the violence, the hate, the homophobia, and the transphobia that our community faces everyday. Therefore, even though this shooting happened in Orlando, Florida, it violated the safety of LGBTQ+ people across the globe.
In the coming days, we will learn more about the victims. We will learn that they leave behind family and friends who will miss them dearly. We will see pictures of their smiling faces, and hear of their loving hearts. Most of all, we will learn that many of them are just like us. They were LGBTQ+ people who simply wanted a safe space to let down their guard and dance the ugliness of the world away.
In the coming days, we will also learn more about the shooter. From bully pulpits, we will hear speech that inflames xenophobia, fuels Islamophobia, and augments hate. This speech uses fear to divide us by replacing understanding with prejudice and solidarity with separation. We cannot allow this to happen.
As the coming days spur larger conversations about the realities that LGBTQ+ people may face, make sure that these conversations acknowledge how deeply rooted homophobia and transphobia can be in those realities. Do not allow anyone to discount this shooting due to the victims’ LGBTQ+ identities. Do not allow anyone to disregard members of the LGBTQ+ community who are Muslim, because our community is only strengthened by intersectional diversity. Do not allow anyone to ignore LGBTQ+ people who are imprisoned, tortured, and killed on a regular basis simply for being themselves.
Lastly, as Pride celebrations happen throughout the United States, let us remain proud of our identities. Let us use our pride to create a better reality for those who do not have the privilege of being proud. Let us come together as LGBTQ+ people, as allies, as people of different ethnicities, and as people of faith, no matter what that faith might be, to make each other feel safe, loved, and affirmed.
To those who make up Duke’s LGBTQ+ community, whether you are a student, a faculty or staff member, or simply a part of the greater community, Blue Devils United promises that our doors will always remain open. In a time of mass violence and captivating fear, we do not have to face injustice alone.
President, Blue Devils United
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