We Are Still Dying: A Response to the Orlando Shooting

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4002907428_50661c4bce_oOn Sunday June 12, we awoke to news of one of the largest mass murders in American history, 50 dead and 53 injured.  When I was first reading the stories, I was numb.  The sentence that kept repeating in my head was, “We’re just trying to love and be loved.”  

I curled into a ball and, like many of you, began to cry.  The tears washed down my face, and my fear was cleansed; my soul could breathe. This method of dealing with pain is what has kept me alive growing up as an LGBTQ youth; it’s what has kept me from committing suicide when I was first coming to terms with who I could love and who I couldn’t love, with who I was and who I wasn’t.  

There is just one problem that we will need to face in the coming weeks: We Are Still Dying.  

We die slowly when religious leaders claim that love is a sin.  We die slowly when we are kicked out of our homes for being ourselves and loving who we love.  We die slowly when our bodies and hearts are confined to detention centers, when all we search for is asylum, sanctuary, safety.  

We Are Still Dying.

We die slowly because the straight guy is a better ‘culture fit’ and because a landlord has the power to deny us a home simply for who we are. We die slowly because we can be fired at any moment for who we love or how we identify.  We die slowly because the trauma of conversion therapy continues to haunt us.  

We Are Still Dying.

We die because we are taught to hate ourselves.  We die because we are censored.  We die because our lives and our love is debated more often than they are celebrated.  We die because we are whitewashed and erased on a daily basis.  

We Are Still Dying.

We die for the right to love and be loved.  We die protecting our own, because the law has yet to protect us.  We die because we stand up for ourselves.  We die to be seen.  We die to be heard.  We die to not be forgotten.  We die to exist.  We die to love and be loved.

And We Are Still Dying.

I ask of you to search in your heart and soul.  Will you allow these deaths to continue?  Will you allow hate to overshadow love?  We need you.
Because We Are Still Dying.

Angel VanStark, 23, who identifies as queer, prefers they/their pronouns and is formerly homeless.  VanStark continues to advocate for youth experiencing homlessness, for the LGBTQ community, and for people of color. This story was originally published on Voice of OC

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