Tuesday a panel of like-minded activists held a forum at the Los Angeles LGBT Center Villages at Ed Gould Plaza, to discuss how to move forward one year after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida, and the fallout and significance of a President Trump administration.
Apolonio Morales from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, Mariana Marroquin from the Los Angeles LGBT Center, Shedrick Davis of Lambda Legal, and Nikki Levy, an activist and actor, focused their talk on the mission of “intersectionality,” among various communities and strategies for unifying them.
One of the topics that came up in the discussion again and again was that despite the horror of Pulse or the November election, there have been surprisingly positive signs of groups aligning.
“Pulse shattered the illusion of many of our perceptions and it brought home that the brutality and the violence that exists in other communities can exist in the gay community in such a shocking way,” Morales said.
“With the Evangelical community coming in to engage with victims and their families — which you don’t normally see. So, in this moment, in a terrible tragedy, you also see these moments of opportunity and opening up of dialog and conversations,” he added.
Davis said the Pulse nightclub shooting was a wakeup call for activists.
“Pulse set in motion the perception that violence against our ability to just be, and the backlash against the rights that seemed to have been granted by decisions and progression regulations that the Obama administration had begun to implement,” Davis said.
“Election night reinforced that for me, and a lot of people in the community, and it’s played out now for the general LGBT community as well, it’s not been just the direct attacks that immigrants and Muslims have faced. It marked a turning point. We’re back on defense.”
Marroquin made the point that although there’s been a new era of resistance, people should consider some in the community who don’t necessarily have the strength to fight back.
“To say, ‘we have to fight back’ is powerful, but for someone who has been all their lives fighting to be who they are, it may be a little bit too much to ask,” she says. “Let’s keep those people in mind.”
Davis says that since Trump’s election, Lambda Legal has adopted a strategy of resistance. “We’ve come too far to give these rights away, and we took notes on the obstruction tactics of our opponents during the Obama administration, of filing suit with something they disagreed with and slowing it down,” he said.
Davis adds that Lambda Legal has a four step approach to fighting Trump’s positions: resist, slow or stop legislation and regulations that infringe on LGBT people’s rights, shed light on those laws, and educate people on their rights.
Almost all of the panelists agreed that the one element needed to overcome for a safe future for those most at-risk communities, (immigrants, people of color, and LGBTQ) is vanquishing the fear that exists around people with varying opinions, and the importance of understanding and talking to one another.
“I want to make sure that when I wake up every morning, I ask myself, ‘Am I excluding someone? Am I being intentional? Am I being considerate? Do I have gaps in my thinking? And how do I close those gaps?’ And with all the things happening around the country, the Women’s March, the protests at LAX after the Muslim travel ban, the Resist March, I ask have to ask myself, ‘do I know enough about the other to recognize their humanity?’ I think that’s an honest conversation I have to have with myself,” Morales said.
Undeterred by tragedies such as Pulse, or the senseless deaths of 22 transgender women in the U.S., or Southern Poverty Law Center’s documented 1,372 hate crimes between the 2016 U.S. presidential election and February 2017, Tuesday’s panelists remain hopeful.
“We will survive this and we will make it work and keep providing a safe space for those who aren’t empowered enough and are still living in fear,” Marroquin said.