Wearing rainbow colored ribbons, about 150 people circled in Red Square to participate in Western’s “We Are Orlando” vigil, on Tuesday, June 14.
At 2 a.m., Sunday, June 12, a gunman entered an Orlando, Florida nightclub, killing 49 and injuring more, according to CNN.
Joanne DeMark, chair of Western’s LGBTQ+ advocacy council, started the vigil by displaying the flag of the LGBTQ community upside down to show extreme danger to life.
“People who are in the military know when a flag is upside down, it shows that there is a great distress,” DeMark said. “We are a community in distress.”
The shooting happened at a gay bar, DeMark said. That’s how the queer community found each other, when they had no other safe space.
Lise Fitzpatrick, chair of Western’s Minority Employment Council, said people use the queer community as a justification for violence.
“Our hearts are heavy with each individual loss in Orlando,” Fitzpatrick said.
Laura Langley, a manager at Equal Opportunity Programs, spoke on reactions to the shooting.
“Violence that is fueled by the societal, cultural propagation of homophobia and transphobia that hurts people every single day and this is a devastating reminder.”
Western graduate Bryce Fields
“This slaughtering of our queer Latino siblings has left us crying on our way to work; crying at our desks,” Langley said. “We can’t protect ourselves or our loved ones.”
One of the speakers at the vigil was Western graduate Bryce Fields.
“Violence that is fueled by the societal, cultural propagation of homophobia and transphobia that hurts people every single day and this is a devastating reminder,” Fields said.
A common topic was the recent conversation in legislation against LGBTQ+ individuals and families.
“A few weeks ago [legislators were] talking about alleged dangers of LGBTQ+ in bathrooms, and now they are offering condolences,” Fields said.
Langley also spoke about the legislature targeting the wrong problem.
“It is also a familiarity deft move of white supremacy, distracting from politicians who purport to address safety by keeping trans people out of bathrooms instead of assault weapons out of civilians’ hands,” Langley said.
Team for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students member Emerson Lee, senior, showed concern for students who were at home with their families instead of the support systems they have created at Western.
Students who are at home are often with family members who may use the wrong pronouns, or don’t think they deserve a partner, Lee said. LGBTQ+ students often feel very alone, but many have community support through peers and trusted others when they are at school.
Lee felt immediate devastation when hearing the attack at the nightclub, they said.
“This is very normal for us,” Lee said. “Queer and trans people, especially people of color, are particularly vulnerable. That is a weight that the entire LGBTQ+ community bears on a daily basis, and this is another tragic example.”
The vigil was meant to be in support of those who lost their lives and for those who experience violence every day, Fields said.
“We have suffered a great loss and I ask that in the fires of our anguish we forge the tools to create a better future,” Fields said. “Inaction is complicity.”
On Monday, June 13, President Bruce Shepard sent a message to students and faculty, and said he stands behind the victims and the LGBTQ+ community of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
To contact the Western’s counseling center call (360) 650-3164 or visit Old Main 540.
To contact the Queer Resource Center call (360) 650-6120 or visit Viking Union 515.