On the Pulse massacre: Who is left out of the current discourse?

Pulse2Photo by PeskyMonkey / iStock.

This blog post is a joint collaboration between: Minnah W. Farook, APAGS member and Student Affiliate Member of Divisions 17, 45, 35, 29, 52, and 56 and Counseling Psychology Ph.D. Candidate, Roberto L. Abreu, Counseling Psychology Ph.D. Candidate and Co-chair of the  National Latina/o Psychological Association Orgullo Latinx: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity SIG  and Division 45 Student Committee Co-liaison, and James J. García, Clinical Health Psychology Ph.D. Candidate and Past Chair of the APAGS Committee for the Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Diversity (APAGS-CARED).

Disclaimer: The opinions in this blog represent the personal opinions of the authors and not necessarily those of APA, APAGS, NLPA, or any other divisions of the APA.

A year ago we mourned the loss of 49 LGBTQ+ victims (58 wounded) during the Pulse nightclub massacre, most (90%) of whom were of Latinx and Puerto Rican heritage.  Since then, the LGBTQ+ community, especially queer Latinx and people of color (PoC), have struggled to heal while fostering resilience and finding ways to work through fear and hypervigilance.  Needless to say, both the Latinx and LGBTQ+ community at large have, and will continue, to mourn.  Additionally, there have been repeated attempts by conservative politicians to co-opt this traumatic experience for the LGBTQ+ and Latinx community in order to advance an anti-Muslim agenda.  This has contributed to a sociopolitical narrative that:

  1. Allows the media and politicians to scapegoat the Muslim community by promoting anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies.
  2. Does not recognize the complexity of internalized homophobia and heterosexism, mental health issues, and gun control legislation that may be factors in the Pulse attack.

On June 10, 2017, ACT for America, a group that has been identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, organized a “March Against Sharia” in 20 states and 28 cities across the country.  Although described as defenders of Muslim women and human rights, the founder of the group, Brigitte Gabriel, has equated all Muslims with terrorists, claimed that Muslims cannot be loyal to America, and has spread hate speech to demonize all Muslims.  In close proximity to the march, and timed with the anniversary of the massacre at Pulse nightclub, members of the group took the opportunity to connect their anti-Muslim message with support for LGBTQ rights.  This opportunistic ploy has attracted misinformed LGBTQ individuals and LGBTQ allies to these marches and to the thinly veiled anti-Muslim agenda of ACT for America.

Given the current sociopolitical climate, including the proposed “Muslim Travel Ban,” and the media’s focus on Islam in relation to ISIS, it is easy to fall into the trap of scapegoating Muslims for social problems that we must all work together to resolve.  However, it is very important for LGBTQ+ individuals to be aware of the displaced anger toward Muslims and recognize the tactics being used to create division among marginalized groups to maintain the status quo. This anti-Muslim rhetoric further serves to alienate Muslim LGBTQ individuals from both the Muslim and the LGBTQ community.  As Lilla Watson, an indigenous Australian artist and activist, said, “…if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”  We need to remember that the liberation of LGBTQ individuals is tied to the liberation of other marginalized groups, including Muslims.  We must work together to fight for our rights and advocate for social justice by being allies to each other when we are attacked.  We can achieve this through communication and meaningful engagement within and for our communities.

With all of these events taking place, you are probably wondering: what can we do as psychologists-in-training?  Awareness of how this massacre against the LGBTQ+ community is leaving out our Muslim family is an important first step, click here and here for examples of how LGBTQ+ Muslims have been ‘othered’ by LGBTQ+ and non-queer people in the wake of the Orlando massacre.  In addition, the authors suggest the following:

Intra/Interpersonal level:

  • If you identify as a Queer Muslim, or know someone who does, and feel overwhelmed with current socio-political rhetoric, reach out for help.
  • If you are LGBTQ+/non-LGBTQ+, recognize your own privilege and views on Islam.   Ask yourself, what sources have influenced my worldview?  Check out this blog from a person who explores his “Christian privilege.”

Department level:

  • Speak up against a “culture of silence” by creating spaces on campus to have open and brave dialogues related to anti-Muslim rhetoric and Islamophobia.

Societal level:

  • Be an ally to Muslims
  • Speak up against Islamophobia when you see it in others, particularly the narrative that being queer and Muslim is incompatible.
  • Organize a grassroots movement to provide a platform against anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Within Psychology level:

  • Get involved with Divisions (APA Div 45) or APAGS (APAGS-CARED, APAGS ACT) to help facilitate one of these open and brave dialogues on your campus.
  • Join the Middle Eastern and North Africa (MENA) Psychology Listserv to share strategies on how to combat Islamophobia and be inclusive of our Muslim LGBTQ+ family. Contact Germine Awad, Ph.D. to be part of this listserv (gawad@austin.utexas.edu).

For LGBTQ+ and allies, let us remember that the current sociopolitical rhetoric is and will continue to attempt to create division among us.  For those who identify as Queer or Queer PoC, it is important to remember that we have lived (and will continue to live) in survival mode just to exist.  As psychologists-in-training, it is our responsibility to speak up, but more importantly to stand up, in the fight against Islamophobia and resist being pitted against one another.

4 thoughts on “On the Pulse massacre: Who is left out of the current discourse?

  1. Eddy A.

    Thank you for beautifully calling attention to the ways our communities both work against each other and can do a better job of working together. Love the liberation quote!

    1. James García

      Thanks for your support, Eddy! Naming the ways in which our family can be pitted against each other is an important first step! Minnah crafted that beautiful liberation statement!


      Ryan, please circulate this with folks in your circle. We want to get people to start talking about this within the community!

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