I had been going to gay clubs for well over 3 years before I came out to my mother. It had never occurred to me that my parents would find out I visited such places. My adult and sexual life was mine to do with as I pleased and no one in my family needed to know about me being gay. For many in Orlando that may have changed this weekend. We heard stories of one victims who had just come out to his family and was living a happy life with his partner, sharing great times with friends, and it all was taken away.
But what about the LGBT victims or the injured that were not out to their families, or what about the LGBT club attendees that were able to escape unharmed physically but scarred emotionally, now possibly living with going through this ordeal, but not being out to loved ones. Chatting with one of my friends, I asked, do they normally not release the names of the injured? Is it common practice or are they protecting them by keeping names silent, maybe because not everyone is out?
A post on PRI.ORG elaborated on this thought while raising the cultural and religious factors with this tragedy, being gay, and coming out.
Many of the victims of the Sunday shooting in Orlando were in their 20s and Latino. It's a young age, and a really important time for people who are "coming out" to their families.
"Imagine those folks who were not out to their families, or who were barely starting to come out to their families," says Jorge Gutierrez, national coordinator for Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement. "We know how important family is to us as Latinos. Now they don't have that opportunity to be authentic, in their homes with their own families."
For Marytza Sanz, this is one part of Sunday's shooting at Pulse nightclub that is particularly devastating. She's the president of Latino Leadership, a nonprofit organization in the city that helps families connect with and navigate services and resources.
"For a lot of our families, having a son or a daughter who is gay maybe was a secret until this weekend. Culturally, our families, they're not too open," says Sanz. "Suddenly, these kids' names are coming in the media."
Serving the Latino population in a crisis is already a challenge. And the cultural taboos around homosexuality make this type of violence even more difficult.
Jeff Prystajko is the director of communications for another local nonprofit, Come Out With Pride, Orlando. Even in a city as welcoming as Orlando, he says, he's seen how difficult the process of "coming out" can be for young people.
"Every person who has come out, has a story. For young people now, it's common," says Prystajko. "Many parents are more accepting, but that's not everywhere. Many people have deeply held beliefs or [are in] religious communities that say homosexuality is intrinsically bad."
Prystajko did not know any of the victims personally, but he says because of their ages, it's likely many of them had not yet "come out."
"So many of us who have had problems coming out with our families have built those relationships back. We can only hope that some of these communities that have rejected LGBT people can change," Prystajko says.
According to a 2012 study by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies on religious beliefs in Orlando, the city's population is largely Roman Catholic, with almost 300,000 members. Evangelical and Southern Baptist worshippers make up about 230,000 of over 2 million people in the metro area. Data from the Orlando Economic Development Commission shows that about half a million in the city are Hispanic. A large share of that population traces its origins to Puerto Rico, according to a Pew Hispanic Center study.
For Sanz, the hope is that all of these conversations and this tragedy can at least help heal divisions. The violence, she asks, will it bring us together, or are we going to go back to how things were?
"It's hard [for families], and more hard when they have been going to a church that has been penalizing homosexuality," she says. "You have been maybe going to a church for many years. Now you're seeing your pastor on TV saying, let's pray for these families."
"For our families, they are lost now. They are running without direction."
What should come from this devastation, she says, is acceptance. "Let's sit and let's talk. You're my son, you're my daughter. We are all together and we love you no matter what." – pri.org
I was raised in a French Roman Catholic home, in a very Catholic mill town of 9,000 people in central Maine, church every Sunday, Sunday school, 1st Communion, Confirmation, the whole bit. My parents still go every Sunday morning at 8 AM. I came out to my mom over a much smaller tragedy. I had found out my boyfriend at the time had cheated on me (the first of several times I would learn). It seems that just about every gay boy reaches out to mom when there is strife. They are our rock. They will not judge. And when I called my mother crying, my mom didn't judge, she just loved.
I was saddened to hear of any of the losses, but one that was so sobering was that of a mother, who was out with her son, dancing, celebrating life. Brenda Lee Marquez McCool passed away being proud of her son as he lived his life, his out life, his gay life, his happy life.
Families have to go through the process of coming out as well. They will be known in their community, church, grocery store as having an LGBT member. They will have to face the discussions, the ridicule, or deal with the overwhelming support. I vote for the latter. don't you? Make it happen Orlando. Make it happen USA.
Massive amounts of healing will need to occur in Orlando and across the nation. But all of those scars, wounds, injuries are not physical. Many are emotional. We hope that those that need the support to get through this life changing event will be able to find it.
The original statement … "for a lot of our families, having a son or a daughter who is gay maybe was a secret until this weekend. Culturally, our families, they're not too open," was more so about Orlando, but I think it is applicable to the nation. Will this time be a time of coming out? May it be due to a presence at Pulse in Orlando or may it be from a discussion in your own community or even church around the tragedy? What was made quite evident is that life is short. It needs to be happy, celebrated to the fullest before anyone takes it away from you. Happiness needs to be had. Love needs to be had.
Here is just one resource of many out there for you if you need to talk to someone. Click on image for larger view,