After Orlando, Asian American community expresses solidarity, urges support

Following the deadliest mass shooting in United States history at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, on June 12, the Asian American community — members, advocacy groups and leaders, alike — have extended condolences and expressed solidarity with the LGBTQ community, all the while urging support for queer South Asian Muslims and the Muslim community.

“As Americans, we must take action at the local, state and federal levels to ensure that hate crimes and acts of terror will never have a place in our society,” Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) President Leslie Moe-Kaiser said, in a press release. “There are many LGBTQ Asian American and Pacific Islander members in our community who are mourning the victims from the attack and rattled by the shock of seeing their identity targeted in such a mass act of terror. To have one’s identity and humanity continually questioned and rejected and then see that rejection turned into violence is frightening; but when confronted by fear, we must remain strong. This is a reminder of the need for continued education to dismantle hate and work for full LGBTQ equity.”

The actions of a lone gunman, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, who shot and killed 49 people, and injured another 53, stunned a nation already plagued by too-frequent reports of these horrific incidents. Three of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history have occurred in the last 10 years: at Virginia Tech in 2007, when 32 were killed; and at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, when 27 lost their lives.

The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), in a statement on Sunday following the Orlando tragedy, said these “shootings cannot be the new normal, and we must demand our lawmakers enact common sense measures to end the bloodshed.”

Mateen, who claimed allegiance to ISIS and expressed support for the Boston Marathon bombers during a 911 call during the attack, was seemingly inspired by, not directed by, the terrorist group. Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan told the U.S. Senate intelligence committee last week that the agency has not found any link between Mateen and ISIS.

President Obama visited Orlando last week to meet with victims’ families and to pay tribute to the dead. “If there was ever a moment for all of us to reflect and reaffirm our most basic beliefs that everybody counts and everybody has dignity, now’s the time,” Obama said during his visit. “It’s a good time for all of us to reflect on how we treat each other and to insist on respect and equality for every human being.”

Asian Americans Advancing Justice President Mee Moua called the shooting a “senseless tragedy.” “Saturday showed just how much farther we have to march for civil rights,” Moua said. “It showed how much hatred still exists in this country and around the world. In the days to come, we cannot allow fear and tragedy to tear us apart. We will stand together as one community in solidarity.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Judy Chu, head of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, also released a statement last week. “Although many questions remain to be answered, we cannot allow terror and hate to divide us,” Chu said. “The AAPI community stands in solidarity with our LGBT brothers and sisters throughout the country during this difficult time.”

Organizations also asked community members to look past anti-Muslim rhetoric.

In an open letter, a group of Asian American parents of LGBTQ kids, mothers from organizations like API Rainbow Parents and Out Proud Families, expressed their support for their children and for parents of queer Muslims, many of whom are of South Asian descent.

“Our hearts are with our LGBTQ South Asian and Muslim community members who are reeling in pain from [the] attack and feeling the combined pain of Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia and racism. We stand in solidarity with you,” they wrote. “This is a time we renew our commitment to continue the fight for equality of our children and their community. We vow to hold our ground and be more vocal and visible because we love our queer API children.”

“Terror is meant to create animosity and distrust between a nation’s people, and in the coming days and weeks there will be attempts to turn the LGBTQ community against the Muslim community. However, this can never come to pass. We must reject terror and instead all come together to combat ignorance, bigotry and hate,” Moe-Kaiser said.

“We .. reject the popular narrative that Islam or the Muslim community as a whole is homophobic and transphobic,” NQAPIA said. “We are proud to be both queer and Muslim, and cherish both of our communities. In the next few weeks, we must resist the inevitable, racist attempts to divide and conquer us. We ask that our allies refuse to use this moment to undermine the safety of people of color. We ask that people come together in this difficult time to heal, and that we intentionally create systems and spaces where all members of our community feel secure, safe and able to be their full selves.”