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The intersectional approach needed to stem the plague of gun violence in America

Pulse Nightclub LGBTQ Memorial Gun Violence

"For queer individuals, particularly those of color, navigating a world where violence can erupt at any moment is a harsh reality," writes Gabriella Rodriguez.

I grew up in a religious household where the words in scripture were taken literally. Marriage was seen as a bond only between a man and a woman and turning to violence to settle disputes was normalized. Things were a certain way and that was that. It wasn’t until I told my story to other people as I got older that I realized nothing about gun violence should ever be considered normal.

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I now stand here as a proud Afro-Latinx Queer woman, but I’ve only recently embraced that truth. Many pieces of my life growing up have been stigmatized and shunned. It’s through others and my healing journey that I am still learning how to vocalize those experiences, to help others with a similar past, while also balancing the mental gymnastics of managing systemic trauma that is still pervasive in my communities. And though these disparities are preexisting, certain moments unearth our raw pain and struggle in a new light to the rest of the world.

When hatred armed with a weapon of war murdered 49 people and wounded 53 more at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016, panic ensued. I will never forget the gut-wrenching feeling of frantically cross-referencing television channels to see who would release victims’ names first, texts and phone calls flooding in from loved ones, and the eerie silence in between not knowing and trying to comprehend what happened

But after panic, grief, and then anger set in. My rage alongside others was fierce, and it stemmed from knowing what we had already been privy to our entire lives – that visceral hatred can be lethal, and easy access to firearms makes it even deadlier. Why us?

People showed up in droves. News desks, reporters, hot lights, and microphones amplified our pain and message to the world: Not one more. Ni Uno Más.

But when the cameras were gone, what were we left with? Coverage dissipates, but our communities' trauma permeates. Tokenizing our pain will not fix our country’s gun violence crisis.

Over 90 percent of individuals at Pulse were queer and Latinx. And yet, so many family members did not know what was happening because of a language and cultural barrier. Linguistic support wasn’t offered and neither was mental health support for these disproportionately affected communities. In our underserved spaces, we constantly fight to not be looked over, and when you’re operating on a near-empty tank, to begin with, you can only stay in reserve for so long before there’s nothing left.

QLatinx, where I now serve as executive director, was created after gun violence ravaged our queer and Latinx communities that tragic night at Pulse. We work to disarm hate, but to also empower the most marginalized members of our community by establishing affirming and supportive healing spacesIn the aftermath of the shooting at Pulse, few individuals were considering the myriad nuances at play – were those affected undocumented or mixed-status families? How would we rectify the specific damages done to the queer and Latinx community?

To this day, we don’t fully understand the torn fabric and tears at the threads of our communities after traumatic experiences like these. Nearly two-thirds of all gun deaths among Latinx people in the United States are homicides, and Latinx people are twice as likely to die by gun homicide and four times as likely to be wounded by a gun as white people. For queer individuals, particularly those of color, navigating a world where violence can erupt at any moment is a harsh reality. The sense of safety is elusive and the psychological toll is immeasurable. A 2022 Trevor Project survey showed that 45 percent of LGBTQ+ youth have seriously considered a suicide attempt in the past year and nearly one in five transgender and nonbinary youth had attempted suicide.

This week marks the sixth annual National Gun Violence Survivors Week, a time to acknowledge the pain and strength of survivors of gun violence. QLatinx seeks to address not only the visible scars but also the invisible wounds that linger long after the news cycle has moved on or the tragedy never even makes the headlines. The United State’s culture of silence around gun violence means that too often we don’t talk about the lasting impact it leaves on survivors. National Gun Violence Survivors Week is such a special time of year for survivors like myself to stand up, speak out, and share our stories.

Survivors are not a monolith. We are people with knowledge, stories, and experiences. This is why all of us at QLatinx are dedicated to centering intersectionality to better understand trauma and the different forms it can take. Because if we can’t honor all the parts of the people affected, we have not done our job.

Creating long-lasting change requires a persistent fight to carve out space for our voices.

Are we tired? Of course. It's exhausting to endure these tragedies over and over again. But this road has been paved before, and we’re going to keep repaving it until that road is smooth enough for everyone to walk on.

Gabriella Rodriguez is the Executive Director of QLatinx, a grassroots community-led organization dedicated to advancing and empowering Central Florida’s LGBTQ+ Latinx community.

Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.

If you are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned that someone you know may be, resources are available to help. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 is for people of all ages and identities. Trans Lifeline, designed for transgender or gender-nonconforming people, can be reached at (877) 565-8860. The lifeline also provides resources to help with other crises, such as domestic violence situations. The Trevor Project Lifeline, for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger), can be reached at (866) 488-7386. Users can also access chat services at or text START to 678678.

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