A shattering loss in Orlando

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All of us are reeling from the news of early Sunday morning’s mass murder at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida that has left at least 49 people dead and many more severely injured.  
 
As more details about the tragic act of violence have been confirmed, we now know that this was a deliberate attack on an LGBTQ space, and specifically a space for queer Latinx people, who made up the vast majority of those killed and wounded, to come together and find community.  It is believed that at least half of those murdered were Puerto Rican.
 
There have been messages of support and solidarity pouring in from all corners of the nation and the world.  But we must acknowledge that the attack has robbed many of us of our feelings of safety - and that many LGBTQ individuals have never felt truly safe.  
 
Most of Mazzoni Center’s staff spent at least part of last week and the weekend working at the 15th annual Philadelphia Trans Health Conference, and interacted with people who shared their experiences of navigating the world as a trans or gender nonconforming person.  Many expressed gratitude for the rare opportunity to come together with thousands of other trans people in a space that was created to acknowledge the importance of their identities, their needs, and their concerns.
 
At the same time, according to the Advocate there have been no fewer than a dozen trans people killed in the U.S. already this year - six of them Black women, three Latina women, one white woman, and two trans men.  Their average age was 27.
 
We know that as hard as our staff works to make the Pennsylvania Convention Center a refuge during the three days of the conference, we cannot control what happens when people walk out the doors and into the wider world beyond.  Despite the significant legal and social gains made by LGBTQ Americans in recent years, this is a heartbreaking truth, and reminds us how very much work remains to be done in our own communities and in the larger society.
 
It is difficult to know what to say in the face of this weekend’s events, other than to affirm that we will not give up or give into hatred or despair.  We will not hide ourselves.  We will stand up for each other, and support one another as best we can.
 
Mazzoni Center’s Open Door counseling program has made staff available to provide crisis counseling by phone or on a drop-in basis for anyone in the community  who need extra support at this time.  In addition, the Open Door, in collaboration with the Therapy Center of Philadelphia, developed a brief resource list that can be shared with anyone seeking ongoing support.  (See below for the resource list).
 
The Orlando Sentinel has set up a tribute section with names, images and personal stories about many of the shooting victims.  We encourage you to take some time to watch, listen, and reflect on each of these lives.  May their memories inspire us all to carry on our work with love, compassion, and determination.  
 
Equality Florida has established a fund for victims and families of the Pulse shooting.  To learn more and contribute click here.  

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