- Griffin Swartzell
- Flowers placed at the Pulse memorial outside our local Club Q in 2016.
Two years ago today, June 12, a gunman opened fire at Pulse, an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people. According to the Orlando Weekly, Florida alone has seen 51 mass shootings since the Pulse massacre. Plus, the FBI’s 2016 hate crime statistics (the most recent available) found that 16.7 percent of hate crimes in the U.S. were motivated by sexual orientation, 1.7 by gender identity. And that’s just what gets reported.
In spite of surges of activism surrounding issues of LGBTQ rights and gun violence — the latter battle bolstered by the students of Marjory-Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed in February, 2018, also in Florida — little has changed in the last two years. Thankfully, rallies, campaigns and nationwide vigils have raised public awareness, and ensured that victims of mass shootings will not be forgotten.
Leading up to this anniversary, the people of Orlando have honored Pulse victims with speakers like Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard, who spoke in Colorado Springs just last year; a “rainbow run” through the park near the nightclub; and a performance of O-Town: Voices from Orlando, a play based on interviews with survivors, first responders, and families.
On Monday, June 11, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared June 12 Pulse Remembrance Day, and called for a moment of silence at 9 a.m. to honor the lives lost.
Back in 2016 when we covered the local solidarity vigil and charity drag show, a local named Doe Schall said: “Attacks like this anywhere are attacks everywhere. There's no queer space on the entire planet that isn't affected by this."
Two years later, Schall’s words still resonate. Every queer space — every public space — is affected by the ongoing national tragedy of mass shootings.
Last year, Queer & There contributor Nico Wilkinson shared their poem about the Pulse shooting, “how many times must i mourn this year,” asking a question we as a country may be asking for many years to come.
Now seems a pertinent time to reflect on their words. Read an excerpt below, or click here for the full poem.
i never had to get drunk to dance back then
never had to take a shot
to become something lighter than myself
to move around other bodies
like we were swirling mist
i never had to get shot
to leave my body
how many people left their bodies
that day, across the country,
returning to memories of nights
where all our flesh became breath
how many people
is this not our history
how we keep existing
reviled in the way our bodies
move with other bodies
the way we move
around the fist
that tries to catch us