By Rachel Stevenson
Walt Disney World is known as the happiest places on earth. Each year, families flock to Orlando and Disney World, a land of celebration, diversity, and dreams.
Unfortunately, Orlando became the biggest nightmare for 300 club-goers early Sunday morning at Pulse Night Club, a popular LGBT club less than 20 miles from Walt Disney World’s Orlando Resort.
According to the Washington Post, “A gunman who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State opened fire inside a crowded gay bar and dance club [in Orlando] early Sunday, leaving 49 people dead and 53 injured in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.”
After word of the horrific event had hit the news and social media, people in Orlando and across the nation sprang into action. Blood banks across the country filled with donors this weekend, in hopes of saving the 53 victims still holding on for their lives.
Religious organizations and LGBT communities around the country will host vigils this week, offering support to community members struggling to understand the events of this weekend.
“We Are Orlando,” memes flashed across Facebook walls early Monday morning, depicting pictures of loving LGBT couples, families, and allies, who stand tall and proud for who they are and what they believe.
As a Chester County LGBTQ community leader and event organizer, I am somber today following the Sunday’s tragedy. While I rally to bring people together, my fear for the hatred and intolerance in the United States cannot be ignored.
Last weekend our local organization, LGBTea Dances, hosted the first Chester County Pride Festival in over a decade. The Phoenixville event brought together people of all gender identities, sexual orientations, races, sizes, ages, and backgrounds in a celebration of diversity and acceptance.
Only five protestors skirted the perimeter of the park; a small number compared the larger number of participants at the pride festival.
Event committee members and local Phoenixville police encouraged event attendees to ignore the protestors, and instead, focus on the love of the nearly 1,000 community members gathered in Reeves Park.
Out of frustration for being ignored, one of the protestors called me a bully and control freak. I smiled, thanked them, and headed back into the park. I ignored the hate and encouraged others to do the same.
Today, however, less than 48 hours after Sunday morning’s massacre in Orlando, it is difficult to ignore the hate. This tragedy doesn’t only affect our LGBT community – it affects our world.
Our community, our county, and our country must stand together against hate, show love, and support one another during these tragic moments.
Each of us knows someone from the LGBT community. Don’t be afraid to share your support. People need to know that they are not fighting this battle alone.
It would be easy to hide behind closed doors and let our fear get the best of us. But we can’t, because that would allow hate to win. And we know from our history that love always wins.
If you are interested in showing your support for our fallen community members please consider making a donation via this link: http://www.gofundme.com/29bubytq. Donations collected will be matched by the LGBTea Dances organization and donated to the Orlando LGBT Community Center.
“No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing
The dream that you wish will come true.”
– Disney’s Cinderella
Top photo credit: Vigil to unite in the wake of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting via photopin (license)