As the nation mourns the deadliest shooting in American history, the Orlando massacre has had a direct and personal effect on many members of the Yale community.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, University President Peter Salovey, La Casa Cultural Director Eileen Galvez, staff at the Office of LGBTQ Resources and many others have sent messages of support to the campus community, acknowledging the devastating impact on Yalies near and far and reminding the community to come together in times of need.
“We cannot know all of the Yale family members for whom the mass shooting on Saturday struck close to home,” Salovey wrote in a University-wide email on June 14. “But we can hold all of them in our thoughts and prayers, and we can particularly acknowledge the grief of our LGBTQ and Latinx communities, as well as those from — or with family and loved ones in — Florida. In the aftermath of this horror, our hearts also go out to the Muslim members of our community who have all too often experienced discriminatory backlash.”
Galvez said she was away from campus when the tragedy took place and found it difficult to grasp that people of her community are dying for being their authentic selves.
She added that the shooting was a violation of a safe space for queer people of color, who have been deemed unworthy of love, civil liberties and now the right to live.
“Our Latinx, LGBTQ and Yale communities at large are hurting — we are mourning for our hermanxs,” she said. “There are some that will use this incident to target those in our Muslim communities, however, it is love and not hate that will help us in our path towards alleviating our hearts. Indeed, our Muslim hermanxs are also hurting and mourning with us.”
La Casa Peer Liaison Miguel Paredes ’18, who is from south Florida, said Galvez personally reached out to him after the shooting. Friends from across Yale’s campus and especially those involved with the cultural centers on campus have also shared their support, for which Paredes said he feels grateful.
He added that the majority of the Orlando victims were Blacks or Latinx enjoying Latin Night at Pulse nightclub, a place where people should be able to dance free from stigma and discrimination. That many have overlooked this important fact or used the tragedy to scapegoat Muslims is frustrating, Paredes said.
As director of the Spectrum Fellows, an LGBTQ peer counseling group, Max Goldberg ’17 said he has had several conversations with his advisees after the shooting. Many of them are profoundly hurt, terrified and confused about the event, and Goldberg said he feels just as confused.
In his hometown of San Francisco, which is getting ready for Pride this coming weekend, Goldberg said the police has greatly increased their planned presence and normal celebrations will be tinged with grief and mourning. It will be a stark contrast to last year, Goldberg added, when the Supreme Court announced its decision to legalize gay marriage in June 2015.
LGBTQ Co-Op Coordinator Kyle Ranieri ’18 said the Orlando shooting has deeply affected him and many of his queer friends. To attack gay clubs and bars is to devastate “the epicenter of queer communities,” Ranieri said.
He added that staff at the Office of LGBTQ Resources have reached out to him and his peers and shared mental health resources with them.
Ranieri said he is pleased with Salovey’s email, which recognized the tragedy as a targeted attack against the LGBTQ Latinx community, but he expects the administration to take steps to ensure a safe campus for queer people of color in the coming semester.
“The Orlando shooting was a tragic and sobering reminder that although much progress has been made in support of the LGBTQ community, we still have a much longer fight ahead of us both on and off campus,” Ranieri said.
Still, Galvez said even during challenging times, Yale is a community that reflects and celebrates the rich diversity its members represent.
“Yale has proven time and time again that we are at our best when we have the audacity to lift each other up and love freely,” she said. “This time it is no different.”