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Atlanta’s Teen LGBTQ Community Reacts to Orlando Tragedy

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By Emma Farnham, Ariel Moffitt-Gates, Nova Moffitt, and Kaleb Carter, VOX Media Cafe reporters

The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history occurred a week ago at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Approximately 320 people were inside the club early Sunday morning when 29-year-old Omar Mateen entered and began shooting, killing 49 people and injuring more than 50. Many of the clubgoers were open members of the LGBTQ community, leading many people to perceive the attack as a hate crime as well as an act of terror.

While the shooting was an act of violence against the people of Orlando, it wasn’t an isolated incident. Such a crime could happen in any city, anywhere in the country. It’s not just the adult members of the community that are targets, either: Teens are frequently the targets of bullying because of their sexuality, often from a young age.

We wanted to know how the shooting has affected LGBTQ teens in Atlanta — and whether it made them feel unsafe, even in familiar surroundings.

“I definitely feel unsafe out in the world sometimes,” said 18-year-old Alpharetta resident Heath Goldmon. “[The shooting] has made me remember that safety isn’t guaranteed. Not anywhere. I lost 49 of my brothers and sisters, and I will never be able to get that back.”

Pulse was seen as a safe haven in the Orlando LGBTQ community and has been for many years. Now LGBTQ people feel that safe space has been ripped from their grasp, along with the innocent lives that were snatched.

“It does kind of scare me sometimes … that something might happen,” stated Jada Grier, a gay community member. “Constantly, some members of this community feel the need to to hide and have a feeling of endangerment just for being who they are. This is a painful form of oppression and rejection by a biased, unkind and closed-minded society.”

But other LGBTQ people say they don’t feel the pressure to hide their true selves. Rather, they choose to flaunt and embrace it. “I don’t change myself for others,” one teen told us who asked to remain anonymous. With Gay Pride celebrations being held in many cities this month, some LGBTQ members have chosen to honor victims of the shooting and victims of oppression by publicly embracing their sexuality. They say they have chosen to stay open and use love to combat the hatred across the nation.

“I was planning on coming out to people that weekend,” said 16-year-old Kayla Parish. “This event was a harsh reminder that some people still don’t support people of different sexualities. Coming out to people is a scary moment in a young person’s life that many never [have to] experience. This occurrence in history put a strain on the need to hide. It made people who were finally comfortable enough to expose their true selves and second guess everything. It implemented even more fear and nervous feelings into their innocent and hopeful minds.”

“I definitely feel unsafe out in the world sometimes,” added Heath. “This isn’t right. It’s a human right to be allowed to be who you are. These people have had that right stolen from them. Many live in the constant fear just for wanting to live the way their lives. Everyone deserves that. No matter gender, sexuality, religion or race.”


The photo above includes members of VOX Media Cafe, VOX’s three-week, immersive summer program for teens. A few spots are open for VMC in July; email Susan for details. 

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