My words after Orlando
I was recently asked by VegNews editorial assistant Richard Bowie to give my views on the horrifying mass shooting in Orlando as both a vegan and a member of the LGBTQ community.
My words were edited down in order for them to fit into an article sharing space with several other voices, so I felt I would like to share my thoughts in full with you here.
You can view the edited versions on VegNews here.
My original response is below.
VegNews: What was your initial reaction as soon as you heard the news? What have you been feeling since then?
FGV: My first reaction to news of the murder of dozens of LGBTQ people and their allies in Pulse nightclub was a total non-reaction. I didn’t blink.
News of mass shootings out of the USA are so commonplace as to now be almost expected. Something so shocking occurring with unrelenting repetition creates a space for the mind to retreat into a state of denial.
But of course the numbness wore off to be replaced with sadness, anger and exasperation.
I am beyond distressed that a space created for LGBTQ people was the site of mass murder. LGBTQ spaces exist for very real and critical reasons. Society marginalises queer citizens via individual acts of aggression, media misrepresentations, institutionalised homophobia and Government legislation and laws. We need our safe spaces to socialise, organise, feel valued and survive.
Many of the patrons of Pulse nightclub needed this space on many levels more than their non-Latin@ comrades would. A queer person of colour in the USA might tell you their reality is the struggle against all of the above in addition to racism, gay white cis-male privilege, colonialism, racial profiling, wealth disparity, bigotry within the LGBTQ community and an overwhelmingly-racist mainstream political discourse designed to demonise their very existence.
My initial numbness has morphed into outrage at how these oppressions are being ignored in the reporting of the tragedy. Media channels, organisations and Government agencies working relentlessly to silence and erase queer Latin@ people are continuing to do so in this moment of horror and tragedy. Politicians ask for prayers for a community they have tirelessly legislated against on multiple levels.
VegNews: What do you say to those who don’t see a connection between the LGBTQ community and vegans/veganism?
FGV: To anyone not able to see the connection between the oppression of LGBTQ people and the oppression of non-human animals, I would say look a little harder.
There are far-reaching forces that work to shape multiple oppressions across the USA and the entire planet. Just as Professor Kimberlé W. Crenshaw details how the same forces enable both racism and sexism to oppress women of colour, we can see dominate narratives working to perpetuate both the oppression of LGBTQ people and the industrialised control and destruction of farm animals.
White male, heteronormative, conservative power structures work to promote an idealised, damaging and tightly-prescriptive projection of the human experience that also indoctrinates citizens to view animals as dispensable products existing solely for the purpose of consumption.
Capitalism doesn’t need LGBTQ people so we are violated, marginalised and openly discriminated against. Capitalism does need swathes of nameless food animals, leading to unfathomable horrors and mass suffering. Both LGBTQ people and non-human animals are subjected to control, degradation and suffering as a direct result of white male-powered, toxic capitalism.
VegNews: As someone from the United Kingdom and as a well-versed international traveller, do you have any insight into why this type of (gun) violence happens so often in America as opposed to other parts of the world?
FGV: Why do more mass shootings happen in the USA in comparison to other parts of the world? Even pro-gun people know the answer to this question and the answer is the easy access to high-powered assault weapons.
I was a younger person in Australia when a man killed 35 people while injuring a further 23 in Port Arthur, Tasmania in 1996. The killer used a semi-automatic rifle.
The response from the Australian Government was swift and decisive in the form of the National Firearms Programme Implementation Act 1996. This restricted the private ownership of high capacity semi-automatic rifles, semi-automatic shotguns and pump-action shotguns.
Of course there has been gun crime in Australia across the two decades since the Port Arthur massacre, but very few incidents that can be referred to as mass shootings. In contrast, mass shootings occur close to every two weeks in the USA.
There is no denying that the removal of semi-automatic weapons from public spaces drastically reduces the number of fatalities related to gun violence.
I also believe the USA has shamefully neglected its duties to fund and support mental health initiatives, in turn contributing to the alienation of at-risk citizens. Vulnerable people are being left to fend for themselves within a culture that glorifies gun ownership and perpetuates toxic masculinity across all levels of society. It is a recipe for disaster that is not about to explode, rather it is already tearing apart the population with alarming frequency.
VegNews: Anything else you want to say? To the LGBTQ community? To Americans in general?
FGV: I would like to reiterate what many LGBTQ people are saying. We need to actively resist the proliferation of, and obscenely-easy access to, assault weapons across the USA. We need to see the connection between gun worship and anti-queer sentiment. The hegemonic forces that power gun fanaticism are the very same that fuel racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and hate crime.
When we stand up against money-obsessed gun lobbyists, we are not simply saying we don’t want to be shot in the street, cinema, place of worship, school or club. We are also announcing our intent to topple the inequitable dominant power structures that want to destroy and control LGBTQ people legally, economically and emotionally. We can and should fight these multiple oppressions simultaneously.
Pax Ahimsa Gethen has published their full response here.
Saryta Rodriguez has published her full response here.
Extra note: I have used Latin@ as a non-gendered device to refer to multiple people without relying on the gendered words Latino and Latina. This was a term explained to me by friends in Mexico. It is also common for people wishing to be inclusive to use the term LatinX.