Today is a hard day for many of us.
It may be difficult for those outside of the LGBT community to understand the role a gay nightclub plays in our coming out process, and the safe haven that it becomes as we seek to escape to a place where we can hold hands, steal a kiss, and dance without fear. What happened last year tore at us so deeply because while we may not feel safe being LGBT in a majority of public settings, gay clubs are the one place where we go to be absolutely free. For many of us around the country and the world, we know that as soon as we step out of that club that we will have to face a very different reality from the one of laughter and lights inside. The reality of the attack is that it could have been a club in any city anywhere in America, where LGBT people go to escape. All of us who go out to LGBT places collectively thought "it could have been me in there". But it’s an especially hard day for those of us with personal connections to the tragedy.
I’m proud—like many of you—to call Orlando my hometown. For those of us who grew up in Orlando and went to Pulse as our first gay club… we can recall with nostalgia our awkwardness and fear that inevitably melted away as the night wore on years ago. For all who had just been in Orlando the week before for Gay Days... you watched the horror unfold with the memories of being at Pulse still fresh in your mind. We are here for you.
I want to write directly to those of you in our community who are most impacted by the tragedy. Perhaps you lost loved ones or friends. Or you are supporting a friend who did lose someone. Know that our community stands united and we are with you. If you are in this situation, please reach out for help if you need it. I know what you’re going through. I am here and you’re not alone.
I also feel a great sense of pride to now be a part of the Miami LGBT community. We’re very lucky to live in a city with loud and proud LGBT establishments that welcome our community. We can meet our friends out for Friday night happy hour at the Gaythering Hotel, and we can enjoy brunch at the Palace on Sunday after playing beach volleyball with the LGBT sports league. We can participate in a number of social, networking, and charitable activities weekly hosted by one of the 20+ LGBT-serving organizations in Miami. There are millions of LGBT people in this country without access to places like what we sometimes take for granted here in Miami. We're extremely fortunate.
Across the country our LGBT community is strong in defiance of hate, but there are forces that seek to divide us among race, socio-economic status, gender, orientation, and other differences. To honor the 49 lives that were lost… we must resist the divisiveness and authentically embrace and lift up the voices of every member of our community. We cannot erase that most of those killed a year ago today were part of the Latinx community-- many of them immigrants. We cannot turn away from the Transgender people of color killed every day across America. We can’t forget the LGBT seniors living in poverty and forced to go back in the closet. We can't and we won't.
As you celebrate Pride wherever you may be… from dancing on the beaches of Tel Aviv to marching on the streets of Washington D.C… hold in your heart not only the 49 killed a year ago today, but everyone within our community that is still marginalized, scared, or in danger because of who they are. Learn more about a different culture to help reduce prejudice. Become an ally to other communities outside of your own that experience similar rejection and hardship to what the LGBT community has endured. Volunteer. Give back. Participate in building a stronger tomorrow. That is the best way to honor their lives and ensure their legacy lives on.
Start today. I take this opportunity to invite you to join us tonight at the Pulse Day of Remembrance event. Please come and be a part of our celebration of their lives and as we recommit to honoring their lives with action. It’s a hard day for many of us, but united we will stand.
Yours in solidarity,
Jaime Bayo, MPA
Executive Director | OUT Miami Foundation
(305)521-9050 Ext. 1
REST IN PRIDE
Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old
Amanda L. Alvear, 25 years old
Oscar A. Aracena Montero, 26 years old
Rodolfo Ayala Ayala, 33 years old
Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old
Angel Candelario-Padro, 28 years old
Juan Chavez Martinez, 25 years old
Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old
Cory James Connell, 21 years old
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old
Simón Adrian Carrillo Fernández, 31 years old
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old
Peter Ommy Gonzalez Cruz, 22 years old
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old
Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old
Frank Hernandez, 27 years old
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old
Javier Jorge Reyes, 40 years old
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old
Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25 years old
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old
Brenda Marquez McCool, 49 years old
Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25 years old
Kimberly Jean Morris, 37 years old
Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old
Luis Omar Ocasio Capo, 20 years old
Geraldo A. Ortiz Jimenez, 25 years old
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old
Jean Carlos Nieves Rodríguez, 27 years old
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano-Rosado, 35 years old
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old
Yilmary Rodríguez Solivan, 24 years old
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old
Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old
Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24 years old
Juan Pablo Rivera Velázquez, 37 years old
Luis Sergio Vielma, 22 years old
Franky Jimmy DeJesus Velázquez, 50 years old
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old