GO! Athletes Speak Out About Orlando Shooting

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It’s been a hard week in the aftermath of the Orlando tragedy. America just witnessed the deadliest mass shooting in its history, where 50 people died and over 50 more were injured in a shooting at a gay night club in Orlando. This tragedy has brought out a lot of emotions from people in the LGBTQ community everywhere, and some of our GO! Athletes have reached out to express their feelings.

Conner Mertens:

People often ask me why the LGBT community still needs “Pride Month”. It’s for reasons like today. We will not be silenced. In the face of terror and violence, we will thrive. The bright colors, the eccentric outfits, the crazy dancing…it is all a celebration that we are still here. For those 50 souls lost today and for the hundreds of thousands of souls lost in the face of anti-LGBT sentiment, I will proudly sport the rainbow colors, wear some weird clothes and dance until my feet hurt. Because I still can…and those innocent people cannot.

We will not fear the world. We will not fear the hate. For the one thing we know more than anything is that love prevails. Love is the most powerful force in the universe. A power that hate only wishes to obtain. Our lives will not be bound by the shackles of fear. Look fear and hate in the face and proclaim, “The good and decent outnumber you and always will.”

When we have 200+ anti-LGBT bills introduced around the country and someone can still walk into a club and murder 50 people simply for being themselves…something is wrong. When we are more worried about where someone takes a shit than people literally losing their lives…something is wrong. When 40% of homeless youth are LGBT…something is wrong. When LGBT youth are four times more likely to take their own lives than straight peers…something is wrong. With so much wrong in the world, I beg YOU to be able to proudly say you are what is right with the world…stand up to bullying and discrimination. It is quite literally a matter of life an death. Silence is proverbial nail in the coffin of LGBT violence in discrimination.

 

Lauren Neidigh:

While some people will take this opportunity to push their views on guns or religion, it’s important to recognize this for what it was: A hate crime against LGBT people. This attack does not prove that Muslims are overwhelmingly more responsible than any other group for terrorism (the statistics will tell you otherwise). This attack does not prove that having more or less guns would’ve stopped this hate crime. The only thing that this attack really definitively tells us is that hate and violence towards the LGBT community is still a problem. This is something that those of us in the community have always known, but so many people outside of the community have been able to comfortably ignore until now.

Today I can stand here and be proud of who I am, while 50 other innocent people cannot. When you constantly feel different, it’s even more important to know exactly who you are and what you stand for. It’s easy to forget that and try to fit in with everyone else, but that can never really make you happy. Today we lost more than 49 people. We lost 49 unique, individual influences who made this world a better place, just by being themselves.

 

Stephanie Laffin:
It could have been me.

I’ve been hanging out in LGBT identified nightclubs since I was in my early 20s. By the way, I finally figured out a few years ago that I’m queer. It’s not a secret, my family knows and my friends know. (If you didn’t know, now you do. Welcome.) So now it all makes sense.

It could have been us.

When tragedy happens, I think of this quote, from my favorite show, The West Wing:

“The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels, but every time we think we’ve measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we’re reminded that that capacity may well be limitless.”

We. Are. Limitless. We are stronger than we think, braver than we ever imagined and with the possibility for greatness. This was a terrible act of terror against our community. Together, we have to work together, to fight together and to make a difference together.

My favorite quote of all time is from Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

We can make those changes. In our communities and our families, through acts of kindness, visibility and action. We are hurting, angry and stunned by this awful act of violence. If you believe in a higher power, know that I’ve asked mine for our safety, strength and resilience. Know that I am with you, beside you and that you are loved.

Together we have to change the world. I believe it has to be a better place.

Write your elected officials and tell them your thoughts on LGBT equality and inclusion, gun control and the social issues that keep getting pushed aside for the interests of those with the most money, the most power, and the least care for us.

Do Something.

I love you all.

 

Josh Sanders:

I’ll always remember. A day removed from the Orlando hate crime, the largest mass shooting in our nation’s history. I was numb when I woke up to the news yesterday. I literally couldn’t breathe or feel my body. I remember having a sense if anyone looked into my eyes, they’d see emptiness as if my soul removed itself from my body. My light temporarily dimmed with the realization that 50 people I didn’t know but were intimately connected to had loss their lives and 53 others wounded. I struggled to take a breath before finally inhaling. Feeling started to return back to my fingertips, then arms, then my stomach dropped. My friend Reid was hosting a brunch and I remember calling him. Knowing that I’d be around friends was comforting. All of us would rely on the strength of each other for remainder of the day. I’ll never forget the people I spent my first LA Pride with. We celebrated each other, loving each moment, moments that I often take for granted and forget aren’t promised. The same moments my bothers and sisters in Orlando were sharing with each other before the chaos. Today, my emotions are all over the place. My original numb feelings have turned into deep sadness, frustration, anger even hate…but my hate is temporary because LOVE is eternal. And that’s what I continue to reflect upon today. Hate will never succeed in diminishing it’s light. For years LGBT nightclubs and Prides have been a light for our community, even a sanctuary for us to celebrate our LOVE. I’ll always remember my first LA Pride because in the midst of tragedy LOVE continued and continues to conquer hate. As a Christian, I recognize how historically the church has caused deep wounds for my community, and yet my faith in God is what carries me through tragedy. My hope is in the LOVE of Christ, a LOVE that I experienced yesterday in the people I was with. I hope that the church realizes the opportunity it has now more than ever to LOVE my community. Today, I encourage everyone to LOVE harder. It’s the only way we continue to move forward, never forgetting the past but not letting it determine our future.

 

Dalton Ray:

Yesterday morning for the first time in a long time I cried and in the last 24 hours I’ve really taken some time to think about what transpired in Orlando. . My heart is filled with so much sadness for all the people who lost their lives too early and didn’t get to experience all life had to offer. . I feel so much sadness for all the families and friends that woke up to the horrifying news that someone they loved is gone. . And finally I feel so much sadness for my community. In a time where we are suppose to celebrating and joyful it has changed to fear, remorse and anger. . However, I know this sadness will fade and I know as a community we are already bouncing back. Personally seeing all the support flood in for this tragedy is remarkable and I couldn’t be more proud to be apart of such a strong and vibrant community. What happened in Orlando will never be forgotten.

 

Bree Bailey:

Saturday morning, I woke up and thought that this weekend was going to be a good one. I had just graduated high school on Thursday and all I had planned was a few graduation parties to celebrate a huge milestone. I thought the world was shaping up to be a pretty decent place this year. But that all changed when I heard the news that Christina Grimmie was shot and killed in Orlando. My body was in shock that someone would do such a terrible and gruesome thing. I tried to go about my day as well as I could and be thankful that nobody else was hurt in the tragedy. I went to sleep Saturday night hoping for a better tomorrow.

My wish did not come true, though. When I woke up this morning, I checked my social media only to find out about the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL. My first reaction was to be in disbelief that another tragedy could occur so soon after another one.  I was confused as to what would drive a person to kill people that had done them no harm. The people inside Pulse where just trying to celebrate pride and to be happy. They were causing no harm, but still their lives were taken because one man thought his bigotry was worth more than people’s lives.  I haven’t even turned eighteen yet and now I have to live with the constant fear that someone might try to hurt me just because I’m a lesbian and proud of whom I am. My community should not have to live in fear and risk their lives just to be themselves.

Honestly this event has caused my mind to be pretty scattered the past few days and I still don’t know how to fully verbalize the effect this has had on the LGBT community. I know that I have very mixed emotions about this whole event and a lot of other people do too. At times I’m angry to think someone justified the deaths of innocent people just because he disliked their lifestyle. But I also get very sad about the ridiculously unwarranted loss of life and frustrated that I can’t do more to help the victims and their families. Having to standby and watch this event unravel has been devastating and I hope that I never have to live through another tragedy such as this.

Words are never going to fully heal all those who were affected by this event. I know that the road ahead of us is going to be rough for the next few months and that a lot of us LGBT+ members are going to face a lot of fear because of what happened. I know I’m scared and unsure of how to carry myself, but I know that we can all make it through this tragedy by banding together. I have full faith in the fact that my community will come together around the victims and give them the support they need. My thoughts go out to the victims and their families. None of you deserved the terror that you had to live through Saturday night/early Sunday morning. I hope all of you the very best in life, the fastest recovery possible for those injured, and peace for those who were killed. I hope you can feel the love and support being sent your way.  I proudly stand with you all. Stay Strong.

 

Mike Brosseau:

“Be safe.”

Those were the words my father said to my yesterday on the phone when I checked in with him during the middle of the day at Boston Pride. They are words he tells me whenever I go out in Boston or any city. He says them, and I dismiss them with naivety because I’m convinced that nothing will ever happen to me.

Not anymore. I will take them to heart and remember them wherever I go. My family deserves to trust that I am safe.

Orlando, my hearts are with you. I’ve read countless words on what Pulse means to you, and it hits home to me because I feel that way about places in my own city, my own home. I celebrated yesterday with my own friends & family in Boston, taking enormous pride in the fact that not only was I celebrating but marching in the parade with the Boston Gay Basketball League, in solidarity. Each of those steps I took yesterday pale in comparison to the ones you must take from here. With each step forward, hatred will take one step back. With each step forward, you’ll work to become whole again while hatred breaks apart. Step by step, breath by breath.

As a country, we must conquer this hatred with love. Love wins all. That is a fact, and we must remember it. We may struggle to remember this at times, and we may even lose the light within us. But by losing our light, we become no better than those who commit these attacks. We must work together to bring awareness to leaders within our justice system that we want stricter regulations regarding guns. We have made absolutely no progress since Sandy Hook, and we must demand progress now more than ever. To those who have ever asked the question if we even need pride celebrations anymore, this is why. You are not hated for your love, but we are. For those of you who don’t believe we have an issue with guns, this event is the perfect reason why we do. We don’t aim to take away your right to bear arms, we aim to make sure that those who should not have access to weapons, do not.

To all in Orlando, and who have been impacted by this tragedy, I will be thinking of you forever.