THE main group of people murdered in the weekend’s Orlando shooting were LGBTI, but the vast majority of them were also of Latin American descent.

The Latin America community both in the US and here in Australia has been strongly affected by the terrorist hate crime and those most in pain are queer Latinx (Latinx is a more widely used term to Latinos as it is gender neutral).

While LGBTI rights are improving in some parts of Latin and South America, many people still face discrimination and violence based on their sexuality or gender.

In January 2016 alone, 48 transgender women were murdered in Brazil and on May 22 this year a gunman went into a gay club in Veracruz, Mexico where he opened fire on the 180 patrons, killing 7 of them and injuring another 12.

We asked two members of the LGBTI Latin American and Hispanics in Australia groups to share how their feeling.

Below is an excerpt from a poem called by Pulse by Asiel Adan which he read at a vigil in Melbourne:

1.

Oh america I used to look up to you as one does in awe of privilege and opportunity and though you called me names and constantly reminded me of how I was a virus on your country. I used to look up to you America before realising that privilege and opportunity only exists out of deep systemic oppression and now I wonder america if you’ll ever own up to it and say I care more about my guns than about your people. America: I care more about whites than about blacks… America: I care more about his swimming records than her trauma. And I wonder America if that type of freedom is really ethical. And I wonder america if you’re capable of drone bombs will the lives of fifty queer people of colour really change anything

2.

Australia we don’t shoot but we suffocate. We suffocate in our schools, at the altar and in parliament where you’re always louder than I am. We suffocate on Manus and Christmas Island and Nauru, where we’re torn bit by bit and every bit of our soul goes toward your polls. Australia we suffocate on the reef and in Pilbara where the oppression of Indigenous people and Indigenous land is one and the same… Australia you keep burning coal i wonder if there will be enough air to breathe for all of us

3.

It’s odd when some parts of you are more valued than others. I mourned the death of 43 students in my mother’s home town privately. There was no vigil but I mourned anyway and I mourn today another seven in Veracruz, another 300 in juarez and it’s odd to think how queer people of colour always mourn twice but once in silence

4.

My Muslim friends, my queer Muslim friends. Everywhere I look i’m a drug trafficker and you’re a terrorist and we’re asked to explain time and time again decades of violence and decades of trauma. Time and time again to explain when will we stop killing people. Time and time again and we seldom get to speak about how much it hurts to put those pieces together.
i’m sorry // i’m sorry

Todos somos Orlando. We are all Orlando. Photo: Facebook via Refuge for Hope

Latinos somos Orlando. Latinos we are all Orlando. Photo: Facebook via Refuge for Hope

Cristian Cortes Garzon also had some words to share about his grief:

I may not have the right to speak for all the Latin community, but I do feel very affected by the tragedy in Orlando because this attack transcends race, nationality, gender and religion. We do not need labels for our humanity or for our ability to feel pain.

We must condemn and reject all violence against people regardless of their ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. The recent shooting in Orlando is a direct attack on the LGBTIQ community and sadly this is not new for those from Latinx background and people of colour. Earlier this year, many LGBTI Latinx lost their lives on 22 May in Veracruz Mexico. The silence around this tragedy is all too common.

Even though legislation in several Latin American countries are opening the way to equality, being an LGBTQ person in Latin America is not easy. Kissing in public is difficult. Holding your partner’s hand brings unwelcome stares.

It is hard to walk anywhere without hearing insults in the street because you’re effeminate or different, it is a struggle to witness daily homophobia in the schools and working places.

As a Latino gay man I experienced discrimination since I was a child. I remember my stepfather, my uncles, neighbours, cousins and people on the street calling me names.

Without even knowing me, they would tell me to man up and rejected me from playing soccer because I was ‘too delicate’.

I remember crying under my bed and not understanding why I was been rejected, I felt very guilty for been the way I supposed to be, added to that guilt was religion, grown up as a Catholic there was a lot of people with opinions.

Through all these memories of pain and intolerance, I still have the great memories of dancing to salsa, merengue and cumbia music.

I remember clearly the day my sister was with me on a gay disco for the first time.

A salsa song came on from a famous singer and she sang to me a verse from that song which translates “Although all the problems, family is family and love is love.”

She accepted me completely at that moment and understood all the people at that gay disco.

One of the spaces that I found I could enjoy the company of friends going through the same issues as me was during Latin night. Latin nights are the best and it’s an environment people can enjoy whether you are Latinx or not.

We all should experience a Latin night once in our lives. These are spaces where we can hold hands and embrace our sexuality, mixed it with our roots, celebrating our culture and celebrate the right to be who you are.

Orlando touched us deeply, but we will dance, we will still have more Latin nights.

I would like to call out to those who think that being LGBTQ is a disease or a sin to stop prejudice and discrimination.

I want to call a stop to hate attacks of any kind and a encourage people to promote tolerance and compassion.

In this time of grief we all must be united. We are all the rainbow, we are all love.

Que viva la igualdad, que viva el amor

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