The following words were spoken by Terri Phoenix, director of the LGBTQ Center at UNC-Chapel Hill, during a vigil for the victims of the Orlando shooting. North Carolina, a state fighting its own battle against legalized bigotry in the form of anti-transgender bathroom law (HB2), has been holding memorials all week.
"Pulse describes itself as 'the hottest gay bar' in Orlando.
Many of those killed were LGBTQ-identified. A majority were people of color, specifically Hispanic or Latinx.
"To me the target chosen for this violence is indicative of the larger violence both overt and subtle that affects these communities. And I think it is important for people to understand that for LGBT communities, a gay bar is often a home for members of a community that may not feel safe to be visibly who they are anyplace else in their lives.
"The reality for LGBTQ people is still that they are not accepted and celebrated for their full humanity by their families, by their colleagues, and by society at large. But the club is a sanctuary, a community center, a home.
"I remember my early years as an out queer person living in Savannah, GA. I looked forward to Friday or Saturday nights to get dressed up just right and go out to the Who's Who bar. I felt like I belonged there when I didn't feel like I belonged anywhere else. Those regulars were my family when my family rejected me.
"I imagine Pulse is like that for many in the Orlando community. And for many, the gay club is a symbol of our community and an attack on that symbol is an attack that impacts those far beyond those who are in Orlando.
"In myriad ways on a daily basis, racism, heterosexism, and transphobia affect the lives of queer people of color. I believe that after pausing to grieve and memorialize, all of our best efforts should be directed at dismantling these systems that privilege some lives and experience at the the expense of others."