PULSE Nightclub’s Fifth Anniversary, What Has Really Changed?

Pulse Anniversary BELatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of nbcnews.com

Congress finally voted to make PULSE nightclub a national memorial, which is a big step in moving towards a more tolerant nation towards the LGBTQIA+ (or at least that’s the hope).  

It’s long overdue, but the victims of the attacks at PULSE Nightclub will now forever be commemorated. 

As we go into the fifth anniversary of the attack at PULSE Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, we can’t help but relieve the gut-wrenching feeling of waking up to the news of helpless people getting targeted in a hate crime. 

All of this was just five years ago.

It’s been five years since the catastrophe in Orlando, Florida. Five years since our screens were inundated by the pained faces of people shocked at a reality fueled by the hatred of one person. 

In a moment’s worth, thousands around the nation and world were standing at the frontline with people who seldom experienced true equality. In fact, about 90 percent of the club’s patrons that night were Latinx, which we know are among the most excluded communities (in terms of healthcare, wages, among other issues) in the United States. This doesn’t discount the fact that each of PULSE’s patrons that night, though not all part of the LGBTQIA+ or Latinx community, deserved a space where their identities and pastimes placed them in danger. 

Gay nightclubs or establishments have been known to be safe spaces for the LGBTQIA+ community and others who just needed a love-filled zone. It’s a place where violence was always at the end of the list, and living a life free of judgment was at the top. Yet, on June 12th, 2016, many were injured, and 49 souls were removed from our physical world too soon, and we have yet to finish mourning their departure. 

But did the amount of support during those days remain five years later? 

Let’s take a closer look and ponder.

Checking the facts

Is justice being properly served to commemorate the unfortunate departure of the victims from the PULSE Nightclub shooting and the LGBTQIA+ community? Go through each one of them and think about it.

Stanley Almodovar III (23 years old),  Amanda L. Alvear (25 years old), Oscar A. Aracena Montero (26 years old), Rodolfo Ayala Ayala (33 years old),  Antonio Davon Brown (29 years old), Darryl Roman Burt II (29 years old), Angel Candelario-Padro (28 years old), Juan Chavez Martinez (25 years old), Luis Daniel Conde (39 years old), Cory James Connell (21 years old), Tevin Eugene Crosby (25 years old), Deonka Deidra Drayton (32 years old), Simón Adrian Carrillo Fernández (31 years old), Leroy Valentin Fernandez (25 years old), Mercedez Marisol Flores (26 years old), Peter Ommy Gonzalez Cruz (22 years old), Juan Ramon Guerrero (22 years old), Paul Terrell Henry (41 years old), Frank Hernandez (27 years old), Miguel Angel Honorato (30 years old), Javier Jorge Reyes (40 years old), Jason Benjamin Josaphat (19 years old), Eddie Jamoldroy Justice (30 years old), Anthony Luis Laureano Disla (25 years old), Christopher Andrew Leinonen (32 years old),  Alejandro Barrios Martinez (21 years old), Brenda Marquez McCool (49 years old), Gilberto R. Silva Menendez (25 years old), Kimberly Jean Morris (37 years old), Akyra Monet Murray (18 years old),  Luis Omar Ocasio Capo (20 years old), Geraldo A. Ortiz Jimenez (25 years old), Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera (36 years old),  Joel Rayon Paniagua (32 years old), Jean Carlos Mendez Perez (35 years old),  Enrique L. Rios, Jr. (25 years old), Jean Carlos Nieves Rodríguez (27 years old),  Xavier Emmanuel Serrano-Rosado (35 years old),  Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz (24 years old),  Yilmary Rodríguez Solivan (24 years old), Edward Sotomayor Jr. (34 years old), Shane Evan Tomlinson (33 years old), Martin Benitez Torres (33 years old), Jonathan A. Camuy Vega (24 years old),  Juan Pablo Rivera Velázquez (37 years old),  Luis Sergio Vielma (22 years old),  Franky Jimmy DeJesus Velázquez (50 years old),  Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon (37 years old), and last BUT NOT LEASTJerald Arthur Wright (31 years old).

Well, the answer is not as simple as we’d all like it to be. 

Plenty has happened in these past few years for the PULSE survivors and the LGBTQIA+ community. On the one hand, there’s been validation, while on the other,  the demonization of the community has continued. 

The aftermath of the devastation led many to advocate for LGBTQIA rights, considering the gunman’s reasoning behind his behavior was based on homophobia supposedly instilled in him by his religion. All while using two guns that were legally obtained. 

Being that social media was already a heavy part of everyone’s existence, reshares and status updates on PULSE were almost second nature. 

Messages of “love is love” popped up from everywhere. Or, so it seemed. People were checking in on their loved ones who identified with the LGBTQIA community. It was the visibility and care the community had always yearned for, but it came at the most inopportune moment. 

Yet, it created hope for the community. It felt that a community that had been brushed under the rug for too long was about to bask in equal rights, hence allowing for the protection of the community.

But, as this was happening, religious fanatics were belting out that this was a punishment fit for the sin. How dare they? At that same time, gun sales skyrocketed — right after a mass shooting. These are the types of trends that lead entire communities to search for safe places.

Mass shootings in the United States have become as American as burgers and fries, where guns are almost as easy to buy as the fast-food staple.

Fear and violence prevail

See, the community’s fear has always been at the hand of those who claim to be “better than thou” and believe they are traditionalists that are merely trying to uphold what’s stipulated in the Constitution. At least, this is the case in the United States. 

Activists, nonetheless, urged politicians to add stricter gun regulations the following months after the catastrophic event. And DC politicians DID file a motion as demanded by the people, but it immediately got rejected. 

Sadly, since PULSE, more mass shootings have taken place. 

Insider (formerly known as Business Insider) recently said that there had been significantly more mass shootings in 2021 than in 2018, 2019, and 2020. 

Let’s not forget that the Parkland shooting was only a couple of hours away from Orlando. 

Granted, there’s plenty to unpack regarding gun violence. However, whether stricter regulations or mental health evaluations will decrease gun-related violence is still something that needs to be explored. 

However, that’s only one side of what’s transpired since 2016.

Anti-LGBTQIA+ legislations have been surfacing more so than before—many of these legislations target same-sex couples, and more so, trans folk. 

In fact, it can be said that trans people have become the target of hate crimes in the last several years. Trans people, too, deserve to enjoy the safety from the sentiment behind “love is love.”

As if that wasn’t bad enough, just this month — in mere Pride month —Florida’s current governor, Governor DeSantis, vetoed mental health funding for PULSE survivors and cut other funds for programs such as housing for LGBTQIA+ youth. 

The budget cut included many programs, such as an initiative that allocated $150,000 to the Orlando United Assistance Center at LGBT+ Center Orlando, which would have gone to mental health and counseling services for PULSE shooting survivors. 

As per a spokesperson for DeSantis, Christina Pushaw, Governor DeSantis is a mental health champion, and that the state budget includes more than $212 million in community mental health services funding. 

Still, the timing feels off and almost like a direct attack.

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D) shared the same sentiment and told ABC 7 that timing matters. He reiterated by asking Gov. DeSantis what message LGBT people were meant to receive from him other than see this as an insult to them. 

“The Orlando community right now is bracing for the five-year remembrance, and for Gov. DeSantis to veto funding for PULSE survivors and families is just cruel,” Rep. Smith said.

Equality Florida Media Relations Manager Brandon Wolf also condemned the veto. 

The good news is (yes, there is some) that the fight remains strong. 

Every day, activists, non-profit organizations, politicians, public figures, government officials, among others, have made LGBTQIA+ rights and PULSE victims a priority. 

For example, onePULSE Foundation,  a 501(c) 3 incorporated by the owner of the PULSE nightclub, seeks to build the National PULSE Memorial & Museum in Orlando, Florida. 

As per the site, the Foundation was established to create a sanctuary of hope following the tragic day in American history to honor the 49 Angels taken, the 68 others who were injured, and the countless first responders and healthcare professionals who treated them.

As for now, let’s take a moment and remember the lives of everyone who were impacted by the PULSE shooting. 

Don’t forget that it is now our responsibility to do right by them, and there’s a lot of work ahead of us.