I know I speak for the entire student affairs community in expressing our sorrow and sympathy for the 50 people killed and over 50 injured in Orlando, Florida last night. Our hearts are heavy for the pain and suffering of the survivors, especially those left clinging to life, and for everyone who lost loved ones in the massacre at Pulse Night Club. While this was certainly an act of terrorism, the intentional targeting of GLBTQ people celebrating a night out as part of the National Pride Events adds a layer of personal brutality for the entire GLBTQ community and those who love and support them. The hate and disregard for human life leaves us beyond words. Pulse, a nightclub where people should feel safe to be themselves, dance, and be together, was violated. NASPA grieves with the families, friends, and loved ones of those who lost their lives.
During a weekend where many celebrate Pride festivals, here in DC, in LA, Detroit, and in other cities around the world like Manchester, TelAviv, and Rome, the events in Orlando only emphasize how much further we need to travel on the road of social justice. This act of terrorism occurred during an evening dedicated to Latinx, which we recognize only multiplies the impact of the tragedy. The intersection of race, ethnicity, gender identity, and sexual orientation is important to name in the targeting of those celebrating at Pulse. Already many of our GLBTQ persons of color have limited spaces to feel safe, visible, and affirmed. An attack like this underscores the feelings of isolation that many of our GLBTQ POC already experience. Our thoughts are with the GLBTQ POC community in Orlando.
As we continue to learn the facts of today’s heartbreaking event, we stand with those who fight injustice, challenge intolerance, and combat hate. We also want to recognize those who were able to help each other in the hectic moments both during the shooting and following the event. In a world where we should take care of one another and celebrate love, your immediate action helped to save lives and demonstrated that we must stand united against hate.
One final note – as over fifty victims are being treated by local hospitals, some still battling for survival, a call has gone out in the Orlando community to donate blood. And thankfully, hundreds have heeded that call. But many in the local GLBTQ community who want to help are prohibited by from doing so. The FDA currently recommends deferral of blood donation for men who have had sexual contact with another man (MSM) in the past 12 months. Among recommendations for deferral are also included women who have had sex with an MSM, anyone who has had sexual contact with someone who has tested positive for HIV, anyone who has had contact with blood of another individual through needle stick, an individual who been diagnosed and treated for syphilis or gonorrhea, etc. (FDA, 2015). These institutional deferrals of for donation further marginalizes the GLBTQ community at a time when its members want nothing more than to take action to aid their friends and loved ones.
We have so far to go. From gun policies to laws that forbid donations of blood from those who wish to give—we need to do better. We must do better. Sadly this act of terrorism will be used as political fodder in the presidential election – which will deflect attention from the real issue – the need to continue challenging bigotry, hatred, and racism wherever we can.
Our thoughts and prayers go to all of the families affected and to the entire GLBTQ community who must feel the pain of this tragedy in a deeply personal way.
This statement was further amended at 12:00 p.m. on June 13, 2016 to update the information provided on FDA blood donation recommendations. Special thanks to Julio Oyola, assistant director of LGBTQ services at MIT, for his Facebook post referencing the FDA blood donation recommendations as a complicating factor in this tragedy. You can read the current FDA guidelines here:
This statement was amended at 7:45 a.m. on June 13, 2016 after we were made aware that we included information published by Julio Oyola on Facebook. We are horrified that we inadvertently included Julio Oyola’s words without his permission. We had received the statement from a staff member who had shared some perspectives about the incident but had not indicated that it had come from someone else’s work. NASPA takes our responsibility as an advocate for the entire field of student affairs and those within it very seriously. We are looking at our process to ensure that this never happens again.