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  • PulseA Space for Resilience, A Home for the Brave
  • Katie L. Acosta (bio)

How many nights have I spent at Latinx night at the gay bar? I asked myself this question over and over when I heard the news. I spent most of my twenties seeking belonging inside these spaces … easing my way in to meet other women … acknowledging my desires for them … and grappling with the confusion it caused me. Since the shooting at Pulse, many have described Latinx night at the gay bar as a “safe space.” I find this description an oversimplification of what this space has meant to me. Latinx night at the gay bar brought me angst and trepidation. It forced me to acknowledge deeply complicated feelings that I was underprepared to handle. I envied the confidence I believed others possessed in this space—a confidence I thought I would never have. Yes, Latinx night at the gay bar was a safe space for me to confront my angst, but it was even more so a borderland.1 Walking in was an act of resilience. It meant looking my queer self in the face and allowing others to see her, even if only temporarily.

I wonder how many victims in the Pulse nightclub shooting felt this way; how many of them were robbed of the opportunity to live a deeply fulfilling authentic life—the kind of life I am so fortunate to now have, together with my wife and children. I think of the victims who texted their loved ones goodbye, those who died shielding their friends or embracing their partners. They remind me of the centrality of familia. La familia, with all of its complexities and limitations, continues to be where many of us go to be grounded. As those privileged members of the dominant society try to erase that queer latinidad in the interest of making this tragedy more relatable to them, I cannot forget that these victims’ latinidad others them. Nowhere is their otherness more apparent [End Page 107] than when hearing the well-intentioned journalists struggle to pronounce their names and places of origin.

Despite others’ efforts to erase latinidad, those of us who live are compelled to re-center the victims and the many ways that their lives represent that of so many queer Latinx. They were immigrants and migrants, undocumented, English-as-second-language learners, family members committed to maintaining transnational ties with their children, parents and grandparents. All of these aspects of their identities shaped their need and desire to attend the gay bar on Latinx night. The loneliness and otherness we experience in white America contributes to Pulse’s appeal. Many of us live and work in spaces where one or both of these identities are regularly erased. This reality makes Latinx night at the gay bar a space for resilience, a borderland.

The Pulse tragedy has also highlighted the wide range of responses from la familia. Through this tragedy we have seen unprecedented loyalty from family, as was the case for Brenda Lee Marquez-McCool, who attended the club with her son that night and later gave her life protecting him.2 On the other hand, we have also seen deep-seated rejection, as was the case with one unnamed victim whose father refused to claim his body.3 We have gotten to know the victims through the stories shared by families and friends—stories of their vibrant personalities, their love of dancing, their goals and passion for life. These narratives further magnify those victims whose lives remain a mystery to us because their families have shared little or nothing with the media. These disparities are indicative of the varied responses that exist in la familia’s reactions to sexual and gender nonconformity—disparities that scholars are seldom given the space to explore in the academy.

The snapshots we gained into the victims’ lives highlight for us much of what is missing in academic discourses on queer Latinx communities. The wide range of responses from the Pulse victims’ familias forces us to look squarely at some of these difficult stories of rejection and homophobia and to resist the urge to erase them, even if only...


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pp. 107-110
Launched on MUSE
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