Editor’s note: Jan Kaminsky is a Maplewood resident and co-organizer at North Jersey Pride. The following is the text of a speech she made Tuesday night at a vigil in South Orange to remember the victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre.
In our all too frequent landscape of sorrow, we, the LGBTQ community and supportive friends, come together to mourn the loss of 49 of our own young queer people, mostly people of color, our family, with an additional 50+ injured. We hope for the recovery of those who are still in grave condition in Florida hospitals.
This horrific, homophobic, event has now been classified as the worst attack on LGBTQ people since the Holocaust.
Today, we will not fall prey to the categorization of the murderer by his religion, or his ethnicity, or any other one personal factor.
We are instead enraged by a culture of radical American homophobia that is being promoted by those who troll the internet, by those who seek to inflame the rhetoric with lies, hate speech and bullying, by those even at the very highest echelons of our democracy for whom it is a daily exercise to bait and to hate. We blame toxic masculinity, and the deadly fear that inspires legislation that restricts access to bathrooms to transgender and gender fluid people, and that fails to protect 52% of LGBTQ Americans living in areas where their employment can be terminated just for being who they are.
But we are survivors, we queer folks. We have been killed before, and we are still standing. We as a community gathered here understand that division and hatred takes more than one individual, more than one bigot, even more than one incendiary politician. It takes all of us allowing that division and hatred to separate us from one another, and from our common humanity.
Let us stand up today and say, we will NOT be divided against one another. We will NOT allow the homophobic actions of one person to dictate where we work, where we go to school, where we play. We will NOT allow the very fabric of our nation to be torn apart by hate. We in the queer community, and those who love us, are here not just for a minute, not just for an hour, not just for this vigil. We are in this for the long game. These are our lives. As the playwright Tony Kushner wrote, “We will not die secret deaths any more.”
What this murderer hated most was exactly what we wish to promote – love of communities such as ours where people come together in support and in kindness; where people of every race and ethnicity, and every sexuality and gender, come together to improve our little corner of the world.
Do not become exhausted yet. Instead, get angry. Together we must all seize this moment to rise up, for all of us, for all Americans, and to say NO. MORE. No more tearful terrified mothers waiting for their babies who will never come home. No more SWAT teams and armored vehicles that are still no match for one furious person with an assault rifle. No more broken families who can never again be made whole. No more caskets. No more bullet holes. No more needless loss.
Ban assault weapons. Now.
Mandatory background checks. Now.
Call your representatives and insist on change. Now.
Love your queer neighbor as yourself. Now.
Black and brown lives matter. Now.
Stop the violence. Now.
We cannot wait another day.
North Jersey Pride stands in solidarity with our family in Orlando and around the world, today and every day. To our youth listening out there, we say to you – you are valuable, you are loved, you are important.
El Orgullo de Nueva Jersey se levanta en solidaridad con nuestra familia en Orlando y de todo el mundo, hoy y todos los dias. A nuestros jovenes que nos estan escuchando ahora, les decimos – eres valioso, eres un ser amado, y eres muy importante.