In the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, five LGBTQ Torontonians discuss ethnicity and pride.
Politicians, celebrities, and even some in LGBTQ communities claimed the Orlando shooting could have happened to anyone as if it was a random attack. But the murderer targeted a very specific group of people: not only did most victims identify as LGBTQ, but the majority were also people of colour of Latin American descent. Almost two dozen of the victims were Puerto Rican.
The tragedy prompted important discussions about how the media and LGBTQ communities treat queer Latinx people.
Here’s how five queer Latinx Torontonians feel about Pride, safety, and erasure.
1 Carolina Brown
When Carolina Brown, a 38-year-old musician who performs as I.M. Brown, first heard about the shooting in Orlando, she immediately thought about the victims who may be misgendered in the news.
“I felt very sad for the identities that were probably not respected,” Brown says. “I felt very sad for the tragedy.”
Brown, who was born in Mexico and came to Canada in 2001 as a refugee, used to be vocal on social media about issues facing Latinx people in LGBTQ communities. But after receiving harsh criticism for her posts, she became less political. After the tragedy in Orlando, Brown decided she won’t be silent about issues facing queer Latinx people.
“We have to understand that if we do not mention who’s being directly affected by [the shooting]…our stories are being erased. Our needs are being erased.”
ON PRIDE: Brown, who is a nonbinary transgender woman, hopes that something good will come out of the tragedy in Orlando. She would like to see Toronto’s LGBTQ community and Pride organizers discuss how the Latinx community and transgender people can be better represented. Brown is performing at the Trans Pride March and will read a statement about the Orlando massacre from the Latin American Queer Education Project. The trans and Latinx community hasn’t lost its fierceness or pride, she says.
“I’m not afraid anymore.”
2 Lido Pimienta
Lido Pimienta, a 29-year-old queer artist of Colombian descent, “would have felt the same frustration and sadness” if the Orlando massacre happened to any group of people. But she feels the media whitewashed the attack and its victims.
“What makes me feel a type of way is the way the media handled it and the erasure of Black and Latin people,” Pimienta says. “The media doesn’t represent us. They don’t talk about us. When they say ‘gay,’ they want to lump us into one group. That is where my discomfort comes in. The erasure of [our] voices.”
ON PRIDE: Although Pride is very important to her, Pimienta says the annual celebration tends to exclude people of colour. As a queer Latinx woman, Pimienta feels the annual celebration isn’t for her. The artist often performs at Pride events organized by people of colour, but she notices mainstream celebrations typically cater to white gay men.
“At the parties, white men take up way more space. So then their voices are heard more. It’s a hierarchy so they’re at the top,” Pimienta says.
Despite the shooting in Orlando, Pimienta is still attending Pride this year to perform and to support other artists. While she respects those who don’t feel safe enough to attend Pride, she’s “not going to stop living [her] life because of one idiot” and says threats to her safety will always exist.
“Racism is there, sexism is there. It’s all there, and it’s going to happen at whatever time.”
3 Natalie Petra
Until the shooting in Orlando, 23-year-old University of Toronto student Natalie Petra never felt “both core aspects” of her identity being attacked simultaneously.
“I didn’t know which side of me should hurt more,” Petra says. “I didn’t know how to take my feelings and put them into something productive.”
Petra, who is of Argentinian descent, waited a few days to express her anger about Orlando on social media, most of which was directed at people erasing queer Latinx voices within the media and LGBTQ communities.
The student’s experience with erasure worsened when she attended two Toronto vigils for the Orlando victims. While one vigil prioritized the voices of LGBTQ and Latinx people, she says the other was “grotesque.” As one of three Spanish speakers, Petra had to teach the other presenters how to pronounce the victims’ names before the vigil began.
ON PRIDE: Petra doesn’t feel safe going to Pride events this year—not just because of the shooting, but also because of her negative experience at the vigil. She’ll consider events happening during the day depending on the safety measures in place for them.
Still, she says she won’t allow the Orlando shooter to win.
“They wanted the community, both the Latinx community and the LGBT community, to go back underground, to recede, to fall away,” she says. “I’m sorry, but we’re here and we’re not going to do that.”
4 Karen Campos Castillo
When Karen Campos Castillo, a 33-year-old graphic designer, first heard about the Orlando shooting, she was in denial. Then she received a phone call from relatives about the tragedy, and realized it was a loss for Latinx people everywhere.
“It’s hard to live with [the fact] that where you’re from and where you are has this aspect of disposability in the world,” she says.
ON PRIDE: For Campos Castillo, who was born in El Salvador and moved to Canada when she was eight, Pride isn’t something she usually looks forward to as a queer Latinx person.
“When you don’t see yourself represented, when the rest of you doesn’t feel included, it’s hard to want to celebrate,” Campos Castillo says.
Despite her past feelings about Pride, Campos Castillo feels an urgency to go this year. It’s sad it took a tragedy like Orlando, she says, but she wants to connect with more queer Latinx people. She’s also inspired to make more art to better represent the experiences of being Latina.
“It has made me want to be more visible for the first time in my life.”
5 Aemilius Ramirez
Aemilius Ramirez was at El Convento Rico, Toronto’s longest-running Latino drag bar, when the Orlando shooting happened. When Ramirez was a teenager, they dreamed of one day being in a place like El Convento Rico because it was a “sacred space that queer and trans Latinx people [could] come together through all of the pain and the struggle” felt as a community.
Ramirez, a 30-year-old server who is queer and trans, says places like Pulse in Orlando and El Convento Rico help queer and trans people come together.
“To know that sacred space was violated has such a huge impact,” Ramirez says.
ON PRIDE: Ramirez, who is of Peruvian descent, worked as an organizer and performer during Pride weekend for eight years alongside other people of colour to create spaces for marginalized people. They say it has had a positive effect on the community.
Ramirez would like to see more Pride events not only centred on Latinx people, but also organized by them. These events should reflect the entire Latin American community, including Black and trans Latinx people.
“When we are given those spaces, we do so much magic with it,” they say. “Those are the moments I celebrate.”