LGBTQ community sends message of ‘unwavering persistence’ during VCU’s vigil Sunday for Pulse nightclub victims
The large crowd of students gathered at the center of VCU Sunday night did not come to celebrate a basketball victory or the passing of finals. They held candles and snapped their fingers in soft applause, mourning the tragic passing of fifty people from the largest mass shooting in this country’s history.
During a time when they should be spending their summer carefree, a horrible reminder of how fleeting life can be confronted our LGBTQ community at VCU. The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, the scene of a heartbreaking act of violence, early Sunday morning, was supposed to be a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community, but instead left 50 dead and 53 wounded at the hands of gunman Omar Mateen.
LGBTQ students spoke about how important gay bars and nightclubs are for them to feel safe. One person revealed that clubs like Pulse are the only place they feel at home and can truly be themselves. Turn by turn, members of the crowd revealed what was plaguing their minds. Many spoke about how they initially felt angry at the news. If they are being targeted in their refuges, where can they feel safe?
The powerful scene at the Compass on VCU campus was not about pointing blame, but creating understanding. For onlookers who do not identify as LGBTQ, it was a chance for them to see first-hand the pain and confusion that comes with being a part of a minority community that is consistently confronted with aggression.
A local pastor asked everyone to look in each other’s faces and recognize the diverse backgrounds that had come together in solidarity to recognize the hostility the LGBTQ community faces. Anyone who had something to say was given the opportunity to address the crowd.
Stories were shared of the struggle LGBTQ persons face to find acceptance from not just their families or their communities but themselves. It was emotionally draining for some to recount how their lifestyle was rejected by friends and family. The mood was solemn but unwavering persistence was the message all had to share. Though LGBTQ persons have to deal with persecution, they have no choice but to be true to themselves.
All were reminded before leaving that it is up to everyone to create bridges between LGBTQ and non-LGBT communities. One member of the crowd noted that this was the tenth year in a row that they had to attend a candle-lit vigil for a slain member of the LGBTQ community. They will only stop once we have created an understanding between all peoples that the LGBTQ community is an integral part of our society and it is here to stay.
Words and photos by Mike Bottorff
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