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Never Forget the 49

December 13, 2016
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Never Forget. Those are the words I have carried with me every day since I woke up to the brutal murder of 49 mostly LGBTQ Latinx people at Pulse Nightclub 6 months ago. Never forget the lives lost. Never forget the hearts broken. Never forget the survivors. Never forget the trauma. Never forget the self-hatred and internalized homophobia of the killer. Never forget the impact of religious narratives on culture and on people’s lived lives. Never forget. Never. Forget. And, don’t let others forget either. This has been my mantra. This has been my way to honor their lives while working towards a world where this tragedy would never be repeated.

It should not have taken the worst massacre in modern US history to make people realize the dignity inherent in all human life — including LGBTQ lives. Yet, it did. Clergy across the country opened their eyes on June 12th to the harm caused by the words they preached from their pulpits, mosques, synagogues, and temples. Pulse transformed them. They realized that the neighbors they were called to love included LGBTQ people and families. They realized their words created an environment that caused parents to kick their children out to live on the streets, youth to commit suicide before they even began to truly live, and caused a man to commit mass murder on people celebrating pride in who they are at a nightclub. I’ve been working with several of these clergy over the past 6 months to provide support in transforming their ministries and their congregations. They are sincere in their commitment to create affirming and safe faith communities for LGBTQ people and to compel their parishioners to understand what it means to love ones neighbor as oneself.

I know that these transformations are not just happening in Orlando. Reactions like these are happening across the country — perhaps even the world. If any good is possible to be made — it may be the outpouring of love and apology towards LGBTQ people from the very same communities of faith that once exiled us.

Less than two weeks ago I cried with members of the National LGBTQ Task Force’s National Religious Leadership Roundtable and local faith leaders at Pulse Nightclub as we recited their names and silently read the items left at the memorial in honor of those taken from us too soon. We apologized for any way that our religion had been used to cause harm and committed to take action individually and collectively to not let their deaths be in vain. I recommit to that vow every day. I will never forget…and I won’t let anyone I know forget either. #ForThe49

by Victoria Kirby York, National LGBTQ Task Force, National Campaigns Director, Religious Exemptions and Welcoming Movements

This blog post originally appeared on Victoria Kirby York’s blog at: https://medium.com/@VictoriaKYork/never-forget-the-49-87af2f0a6944#.ldso5w36s

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